PARIS, France, Jun 3 – A reoccurrence of an injury, two separate suspensions for insulting a referee and hitting a fan, losing Brazil’s captaincy and now an accusation of rape, the world’s most expensive player had a season to forget for club and country, on and off the field.
Here AFP reflects on Neymar’s difficult season starting with the World Cup in Brazil which could end up with a Copa America title on home soil:
– Back for Brazil –
After more than three months sidelined with a foot problem his 69th minute goal guides Brazil to a 2-0 World Cup warm-up friendly victory over eventual champions Croatia on June 3.
– ‘Pathetic diving’ –
Despite scoring once and claiming an assist as the Selecao qualified for the last-16 his World Cup group stage is marred by what many commentators call his “pathetic” diving.
– Bows out to boos –
Brazil are knocked out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals to Belgium on July 6. He’s the victim of boos from a home crowd watching on a big screen in Rio every time he rolls on the ground, becoming an internet joke for his theatrical efforts.
– Depression –
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say I didn’t want to play again but, I didn’t want to see a ball, or to see any more football played,” the 27-year-old told AFP on July 22 after the disappointment in Russia.
– ‘Sensational’ –
He scores a hat-trick in a 6-1 thumping of Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League group stages two months into the club season on October 3 described as ‘sensational’ by head coach Thomas Tuchel.
– Ballon d’Or blip –
He fails to make the top 10 of the shortlist for the first time since 2013 finishing in 12th place as Croatia midfielder Luka Modric takes the award in a ceremony held in Paris on December 3.
– Same foot, same injury –
With less than half an hour to play and PSG leading Strasbourg 1-0 on January 23 in the second round of the French Cup he limps off the Parc de Princes field with a similar foot injury to the one he suffered 13 months earlier. His return date is set for the Champions League quarter-finals but the Parisians have to face a resurgent Manchester United with new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the last 16 before then.
– Controversial Carnival –
Despite still recovering from the metatarsal problem he’s filmed and photographed dancing at both Salvador and Rio carnivals in early March.
– Referee rage –
Forced to watch in the the stands as PSG are knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United on March 6 he tells officials to “Go fuck yourselves” on Instagram afterwards.
He adds: “It’s a disgrace. They get four guys who don’t understand football to watch a slow motion replay in front of the TV.”
– Tax probe –
Newspaper El Mundo report in March Spanish tax authorities were investigating the bonus he earned when he extended his Barcelona contract in 2017.
Officials were looking into whether the Brazilian paid tax related to his extra payments and his record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, the daily paper said.
– Three-match ban –
Six weeks after his referee rant on social media Neymar is handed a three-match suspension by UEFA for his insults which rule him out of PSG’s opening fixtures in next season’s European campaign.
– Fanfare –
Two days later, PSG are beaten on penalties in the French Cup final by Rennes on April 28. He scores his side’s second goal but hits a supporter as he collects his runners-up medal at the Stade de France.
– ‘The rebellious teenager’ –
The Brazilian press pounce on his Cup final misdemeanour branding him a “coward” and a “rebellious teenager”. PSG’s Tuchel adds salt to the wound by saying “I don’t like it. You can’t do that, you just can’t do that.”
– Suspension number two –
He is given another ban for three games with a further two games suspended for lashing out at the spectator in the stands after the shock defeat to Rennes.
– Shuns last PSG match –
He heads back to Brazil to prepare for the Copa America after he claims to have been given permission to miss the league French champions’ final game of the season on May 24. Coach Tuchel denies his reasoning.
– Captaincy gone –
Four days later Brazil boss Tite takes the skipper’s armband away from the 96-time international and gives it to club team-mate Dani Alves less than three weeks away from the start of the Copa America on home soil.
– Rape allegation –
According to a complaint filed with Sao Paolo police, Neymar is accused of “using violence to have sex with the victim without her consent.”
A day later Neymar denies raping the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her at a Paris hotel, with his father claiming he is the victim of blackmail.
“I am accused of rape, it’s a big word, it’s very strong, but that is what has happened,” Neymar said in a video posted on Instagram.
Neymar then shows what he says is a series of WhatsApp messages with the woman, including topless photographs of her in bed.
– Accuser’s lawyers no longer representing her –
The law firm hired by the accuser said Monday it was no longer representing the woman, claiming she had changed her story.