Neymar 'On Another Level' Like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Says Dani Alves

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2019

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JULY 02: Neymar of Brazil looks on during the Copa America Brazil 2019 Semi Final match between Brazil and Argentina at Mineirao Stadium on July 02, 2019 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Dani Alves has defended former Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar amid criticism of the forward after he failed to report back for pre-season training on Monday. 

PSG released a statement on Monday that said Neymar was absent without the club's permission and "appropriate action" would be taken.

Alves told SporTV's Bem, Amigos (h/t Goal): "If a team has Messi, it must play for [Lionel] Messi, as it is with [Cristiano] Ronaldo. And Neymar is no different, he's on another level and, the more the team dedicates itself to him, he'll continue to give an answer on the pitch. I don't think these kind of players do things that are not for the sake of the team."

The right-back said that, as when he played with Lionel Messi at Barcelona, he looks to get the ball to Neymar because he can make the difference.

He added:

"But sometimes I feel there's this sensibility over Neymar that everything he does should be put under scrutiny. I disagree with a lot of the criticism about him because some of it targets his off-pitch doings and not his football, where he's always provided results.

"As a friend, my job is ensuring Neymar understands that he must find ways to realise his gift for football."

Neymar's father disputed PSG's statement and said his delayed return to pre-season had already been arranged with the club, per ESPN FC's Jonathan Johnson:

Amid rumours linking Nerymar with Barcelona, PSG sporting director Leonardo said the forward can leave the club at the right price:

Football journalist Rik Sharma believes Barca should avoid bringing Neymar back to the Camp Nou:

Alves won the Copa America with Brazil on Sunday. Neymar was in attendance as they beat Peru 3-1 in the final, but he played no part in the tournament after an injury shortly beforehand ruled him out.

Injuries have limited his impact during his two seasons with PSG, causing him to miss 47 matches.

Although he has returned 51 goals and 29 assists in 58 appearances, his absences have kept him out of the most crucial periods of both campaigns, and he has played just one UEFA Champions League knockout fixture for PSG.

As a result, he is perhaps under even more scrutiny when it comes to off-field and disciplinary issues than normal.

Wherever he plays next season, Neymar won't be able to answer his critics fully until he reaches the business end of the campaign, when it will be imperative he hits top form.

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