Former Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov has claimed he doesn’t foresee Neymar making a move from the Blaugrana to Real Madrid, insisting the Brazilian is not a “Judas.”
Speaking to Esports Cope (h/t AS), the Bulgarian gave his assessment on speculation linking the Barcelona starlet with a transfer to the capital, suggesting he feels as though the 24-year-old will go on to enjoy plenty more success in the iconic red-and-blue jersey yet.
“I think he'll win the Ballon d'Or in a Barca shirt; he won't be another Judas,” he said. “He's a smart lad, he knows that this is his club.”
Although it’s rare for Barcelona to lose their star players, there has been swirling speculation when it comes to Neymar.
There was talk of a possible move to Manchester United in the summer, with Neymar himself telling ESPN Brazil (h/t Sky Sports) there was contact between the two clubs. While those stories will likely have done little to concern the Camp Nou crowd, Los Blancos are considering a big-money move to prise the forward away from Barca, according to Lluis Mascaro of Sport.
Here’s a look at why Neymar would be worth spending a reported €190 million on, per Mascaro:
The path from the Camp Nou to the Santiago Bernabeu is not one trodden often, although a high-profile player did make the switch relatively recently: Luis Figo in 2000.
The Portuguese, like Neymar, seemingly loved playing for Barcelona, was one of the finest players in world football and appeared set to lead the team to many glories. But he was lured to the capital, and as we can see here, courtesy of AS, there seem to be some worries among the Barca supporters their No. 11 may do the same:
AS English @English_AS
Chants of "Neymar stay" & this banner "Neymar is not Figo" at Camp Nou this evening. #copadelrey #FCBAthletic https://t.co/pJypCYHCP62016-1-27 21:34:24
However, Stoichkov seems adamant Neymar will stick around at the Camp Nou. In the same interview, he also tipped this side to sample more success.
“They're doing a great job, both the team and the coaches,” he said of Luis Enrique’s men. “Four points ahead [of Real Madrid] and three clear of [Atletico Madrid], with a game in hand. ... It's a significant lead and they're closing in.”
As the club’s official Twitter feed noted in the wake of their 1-1 draw with Valencia in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday, a tie which Barca won 8-1 on aggregate, they’re on a tremendous run:
FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona
29 games unbeaten for @fcbarcelona broken down into 10 facts https://t.co/AvQWqOglYm https://t.co/fpEJL9keqO2016-2-11 04:40:08
Stoichkov was also asked about former Barcelona team-mate Pep Guardiola, who will be taking over as Manchester City boss from the 2016-17 season.
“It's an important step for Guardiola, a chance for him to enjoy the experience of another league and see how it turns out,” he stated.
The former midfielder heads to City with a glittering reputation. He has excelled with Bayern Munich and seems set to make it three league titles in a row with the Bundesliga giants. But it was at the Camp Nou where Guardiola made his name, as noted by BBC Sport’s Andy West:
Andy West @andywest01
Some people really actually seriously do think it was "easy" for Guardiola to win 14 trophies in 4 seasons at Barcelona, don't they? Jeez...2016-2-1 20:46:58
Stoichkov is never a figure to pull his punches, and his assessment of the Neymar rumours is characteristically blunt.
It’s a view likely shared by many associated with the Blaugrana, but after Figo turned his back on the club in favour of their bitter rivals 16 years ago, there will always be a niggling doubt in the minds of the club’s supporters.
At this juncture, Neymar doesn't seem set to make a similarly drastic decision, though.