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Neymar’s foot operation declared a success, but long recovery looms

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Neymar is helped to his feet by Adrien Rabiot during PSG’s win over Marseille on Sunday, in which he suffered a twisted ankle and a hairline metatarsal fracture © AFP/File / GERARD JULIEN

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Mar 3 – Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar underwent successful surgery on his broken foot Saturday, officials said, but it will be six weeks before anyone knows when the planet’s most expensive footballer will play again.

The one hour and 15 minute operation at the Mater Dei hospital in Belo Horizonte “took place with great success, without any problem,” said Brazilian national team surgeon Rodrigo Lasmar, who led the procedure.

Only a short time later, Neymar, 26, was watching live coverage from his hospital room of PSG’s Ligue 1 game against Troyes, said Gerard Saillant, the doctor representing PSG in Belo Horizonte.

Neymar should be discharged from the hospital early Sunday, Lasmar said.

But PSG said that Neymar will not be able to return to training for at least six weeks. This followed an earlier statement from Lasmar that the star player would be out of action for at least two and a half months, maybe three.

Neymar will definitely miss PSG’s make-or-break Champions League last 16 second leg against Real Madrid next Tuesday.

But if Lasmar’s prognosis of a nearly three-month wait is true, then Brazil will be scrambling even to get him ready for the World Cup in Russia starting in June.

Neymar broke his fifth metatarsal — the bone leading to his small toe — during a 3-0 drubbing of Marseille on February 25.

The striker — whose transfer from Barcelona cost PSG a record 222 million euros ($264 million) last August — has scored 28 goals in 30 appearances in all competitions for the club.

– ‘No split’ –

Amid reports of tension between PSG and Brazil’s footballing authorities over Neymar’s medical treatment, PSG insisted that it would take charge of his recuperation.

“The post-operation rehabilitation will begin immediately under the control of the club’s physiotherapist,” PSG said in a statement on their website.

“An assessment will be conducted in six weeks in order to determine the possible date of his return to training.”

Earlier, Paris newspaper L’Equipe reported that PSG believe Lasmar lied about Neymar’s condition.

The report said that Neymar was initially found to have suffered a minor fracture and that PSG were shocked to hear Lasmar say on Thursday that it was a serious break requiring a longer than expected recuperation.

Following the surgery, however, doctors stressed that there was no friction between PSG and Brazil’s federation, the CBF.

“Contrary to what might have been written or said…, decisions already taken and those to come have had the complete agreement of Neymar of course, and of his family, all the staff at PSG, the medical staff, the organization and management of PSG, and the representatives of the CBF,” Saillant said.

“There is absolutely no split, despite what was written.”

Lasmar pointed out that physiotherapy would be done by Rafael Martino, who does work both for PSG and the Brazilian national team, which “shows the integration of all parties.”

– World Cup still possible –

After a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since the shambolic 7-1 semi-final loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, Brazil are seen as top contenders in Russia.

But a big part of that optimism depends on the talented Neymar, who missed that infamous humiliation four years ago through injury.

Jose Luiz Runco, a former chief medical officer for the Brazilian team, told AFP that Neymar will walk with crutches after two to three weeks, exercise while putting weight on his repaired foot after about 60 to 75 days, and only then return to training.

“He’s likely to recover pretty quickly because he’s an athlete and young.”

Neymar arrived in Rio de Janeiro ahead of his Saturday operation © Twitter/AFP / Claire Dornald Clauzel

A potential plus for Neymar is that the enforced break from competitive football may do him good.

“When you think how exhausting the European season is, he could even arrive fresher than the others, both physically and emotionally,” said Cristiano Nunes, the physiotherapist for Brazilian club Internacional.

Neymar may not be able to walk for a while, but he is already carrying the burden of a nation’s expectations.

“The World Cup begins here today, with this operation,” said fan Iago Coura, 24, who came to the hospital with three friends. “Lasmar is the team’s best player right now.”

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