Brazil captain Thiago Silva said he hopes Neymar does not lose his joy of football after the Selecao star revealed the 2022 World Cup may be his last.
Neymar has dominated headlines since hinting next year’s Qatar showpiece could be his final hoorah with Brazil, having admitted he does not know if he has the “strength of mind to deal with football” much longer.
The 29-year-old has carried the weight of a nation amid criticism since bursting on the scene with Santos in 2009 before making his Brazil debut the following year.
Only Brazil great Pele (77) has scored more goals for the national team than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with the South American powerhouse to go with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.
Silva leapt to the defence of Brazil team-mate Neymar in an emotional message of support.
Neymar misplaced 15 passes in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Colombia – his highest tally in a game this qualifying campaign.
“Here at the national team, I have gone through some moments that are very similar [with what Neymar is going through], especially after 2014 World Cup [7-1 semi-final loss to Germany following Neymar’s tournament-ending injury],” Silva told reporters, having also played alongside Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.
“I was called a crybaby, weak, very weak, mentally. These are things that hurt you and you know that you are not what you have been called.
“I hope he doesn’t lose his joy, continue to be happy the way he always is. He is a very special kid and, when he’s happy, doing what he loves, he delivers.”
A qualidade de Neymar Jr. durante o treino da Seleção! pic.twitter.com/KUVrzVtrAl
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) October 12, 2021
“If you need someone strong to be by your side, know that I will always be there. The Silva family love you,” Silva added in an Instagram story.
Silva was speaking as Brazil prepare for Thursday’s CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.
Brazil’s run of nine straight victories in their qualifying campaign was ended in Colombia.
Tite’s Brazil remain top of the CONMEBOL standings, six points clear of rivals Argentina through 10 games.
“I think we are on the right path,” Silva said. “I have been with the Brazilian team for a long time, I have gone through all the stages and four cycles of the World Cup. I know how difficult it is to build a team and a group that will compete in the World Cup, and certainly Tite has a very big task to choose the 23 players. So much so that he has called a few new players up and handed them their debuts.
“He shows the experience he has, but at the same time, he has to make his 23 World Cup decisions. We have not played very well, but we are on the way to a good winning path. In a way, this form is also strengthening us. In the case of Argentina in the final of the Copa America, this gives us strength, in some way it creates a stronger shell, you know.
“We are going through all these stages, and I am sure that we will be firm and strong in Qatar. Although we have not yet achieved our main goal mathematically [for qualification], we are very close to that.”
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