Brazil legend Ronaldo has sympathised with the plight of compatriot Neymar and branded it "cowardly" that the Barcelona superstar has been forced to choose between playing at the Copa America or in the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
The national team's second-highest goalscorer was speaking at the launch of the Ronaldo Academy recently and emphasised Neymar should be allowed to compete in both tournaments, per Eurosport's Dan Quarrell: "This situation is very difficult for the player. I think it's cowardly that he has to choose what competition he wants to play in. What we see is few care about the calendar, and we see more games and more competitions, and the players have less vacation time."
As things stand, Barcelona will allow the forward to take part in only one of the two competitions because they want Neymar to have a proper rest period before the 2016-17 season kicks off.
TotalBarca also highlighted the 24-year-old will have 2018 FIFA World Cup commitments with Brazil in the months to come, with three qualifiers scheduled between now and the end of August, per Soccerway:
How many matches can Neymar play before he breaks? WC quals, Copa, Olympics: he's in demand for all of them [Sport] pic.twitter.com/uHwK3iNOCH— totalBarça (@totalBarca) March 24, 2016
This year marks the centenary of the Copa America, which is set to be hosted by the United States in June. Rio de Janeiro opens its doors for the Olympics in August.
Selecao captain Neymar is valued as Brazil's greatest treasure, and Ronaldo went on to say he would "opt to play in the Olympics" if given the same ultimatum: "I would opt to play in the Olympics. It would be something unheard of if they could get a gold medal at the Games in Rio. I don't know what the situation is like, but ideally, how wonderful it would be for Neymar to tell that story."
|Brazil vs. Uruguay (2018 WC Qualifier)||March 25|
|Paraguay vs. Brazil (2018 WC Qualifier)||March 29|
|2016 Copa America||June 3 - 26|
|2016 Rio Olympics||August 3 - 20|
|Ecuador vs. Brazil (2018 WC Qualifier)||August 29|
The controversy falls as an example of how much influence clubs have on their players' activities, with Barca unsurprisingly hoping to protect their investment and keep Neymar fit for the next campaign.
This is even though Neymar has the opportunity to guide Brazil to almost unequalled glory in 2016, with two of the biggest international tournaments in the sport falling within a three-month span.
According to Joaquim Piera of Spanish newspaper Sport, Neymar is set to compete in his home Olympics, but the question is whether he'll be cleared to take part in the Copa America too.
It's reported Selecao manager Dunga met with Barcelona counterpart Luis Enrique earlier in March to discuss the matter, ending those talks on jovial terms.
In the meeting between Dunga and Luis Enrique in Barcelona last week, they spoke about the crack's physical state, fatigue and more, to try and determine if he would go to the Copa America or not. The atmosphere was good, and they will meet at the end of April or the start of May to discuss the matter further and take a decision. Until then, Dunga and the Brazilian football federation want Neymar to work hard, speaking to Barcelona to try and get to play in both tournaments.
Neymar's input in the matter is seemingly essential, and unless otherwise stated in his contract, the Ballon d'Or finalist should have the final say on just how much—or how little—international football he plays this year.
Ronaldo once had to contend with the commitments of representing Barcelona and Brazil, and he believes Neymar—now in an identical position—should be able to play as often as he pleases.