Paris Saint-Germain have hit out at a poll that found 84 per cent of the French population think Neymar “provokes defenders”.
Radio station RTL ran a survey in which 78 per cent of football fans also agreed that the Brazil star “plays a dangerous game” with his style of play.
The poll was conducted three days after Neymar was ruled out for 10 weeks with a foot injury sustained when he was fouled by Strasbourg’s Moataz Zemzemi in a Coupe de France match.
His team-mate, Anthony Goncalves, later told Neymar “don’t come and complain when you get kicked” after he had responded to Zemzemi’s foul by producing a ‘rainbow flick’ over the player’s head.
On Saturday, PSG posted a video titled “Ney, don’t change a thing!” showing highlights of some of the forward’s best pieces of skill in matches and in training for the club.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) February 2, 2019
The Ligue 1 leaders then released a statement questioning the motives of RTL’s survey, suggesting it supported the argument that Neymar “would sometimes justify a ‘punishment’ of an injury…”.
Casting doubt on the reliability of the poll, the club said: “All over the world, who makes kids and lovers of the game dream the most? Neymar, or any of his last opponents?
“Would one say, at the same time, that Pele, George Best, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo ‘Fenomeno’ or Zinedine Zidane do ‘too much’? Did anyone dare say, in their time, that Mustapha Dahleb, Safet Susic, Rai, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ronaldinho were doing ‘too much’ in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt?
“And, under the skies of our championship, would France have supported the actions of those who would have sent to hospital Raymond Kopa, Dominique Rocheteau, Alain Giresse, Glenn Hoddle, Jose Toure, Chris Waddle, Sonny Anderson and Eden Hazard on the pretext that their gestures could be perceived by the opponent as a ‘provocation’?
“We say stop to these pseudo-polls, which will have no other effect than to remove from our championship the greatest geniuses of this football, which is our common passion.”
PSG provided data suggesting Neymar is better protected by officials in the Champions League and called on Ligue 1 referees to do more to stop persistent fouling.
“We are fighting for a much more protective French refereeing of Neymar – the player who suffers the most fouls in France – and all athletes who try to make the game come to life. And we wish, for the radiancy of the French league, that the Brazilian phenomenon comes back as quickly as possible to light up the Parc des Princes and all the stadia of our country,” they said.
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