Neymar enjoying Barça life ahead of first UCL final

Brazil superstar Neymar speaks to the media ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final—the biggest game in his glittering career thus far.

Andy West
by Andy West
6th June 2015

article:6th June 2015

Focused: Neymar.
Focused: Neymar.

At most clubs, a left winger who scored 38 goals in a season could fairly expect to be richly feted as a glorious talent of unrivalled quality.

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For Neymar, however, life at Barcelona means being forced to shelter under the considerable shadow cast by his fellow South American teammate Lionel Messi, whose outrageous goalscoring feats have dwarfed everyone else’s contribution to the team’s march towards a possible treble.

But the 23-year-old Brazilian wouldn’t have it any other way, making it clear that – for now, at least – he is happy to play second fiddle to the player he idolised for many years and can now enjoy close up.

In the longer term, though, Neymar is also fully prepared to admit that he is fired by burning ambition to achieve both personal and team glory – starting with Saturday evening in Berlin, where he will make his first appearance in a Champions League final.

With this richly gifted and fiercely competitive young man, one thing can be almost taken for granted – it won’t be his last.

You must have been dreaming about playing in a Champions League final for years. How does it feel now it is happening?

I am excited to be playing in my first Champions League final, I am happy for the fans and my team-mates that we are there, now we must make sure we do everything we can to get the right result.

In 2015, you have already beaten the reigning European champions, Spanish champions, German champions, French champions and English champions. Now it’s the Italian champions…another win, right?

We hope so. We are prepared, we are focused, we know we are playing well as a team, and we hope it can be another Champions League win in the history of Barcelona.

Juventus are renowned as a superb defensive team. How will you score against them?

We are confident we can score goals, but we are not just looking at Juventus as a good defensive team. Pirlo, Pogba, Tevez are all special players, they can score goals as well.

Personally, you have been brilliant in the latter stages of the Champions League, with six goals in the quarter and semifinals. Do you feel like it’s your competition this year?

I hope it is our year. It is nice to score goals, but what is important is that as a team we win the Champions League.

Having lived through last season’s lack of trophies under Tata Martino, how would you describe Luis Enrique’s contribution to the team this season?

Very big, we are playing well, especially since the start of the year. It is the coach who has us playing this way, he must take credit for it.

Despite the success you have enjoyed this season, Luis Enrique’s future is still unclear. Would you like him to stay?

Yes, I think all the players would. What about Dani Alves – is there much frustration in the dressing room that he hasn’t been given a new contract?

He has said he will not decide anything until the summer, and that’s the sensible choice. With a Champions League final left to play that must be the focus of all of us.

You have more than doubled your goal scoring output this season. How do you explain that?

I am growing as a player and maturing all the time, but my goals would not be possible without all my team-mates. When you play in this Barcelona team, you know chances will always be created.

Your understanding with Lionel Messi looks better now. Would you agree with that and if so, how has it happened?

The more time we spend in training and in games the better our understanding has become. He is the best no doubt, it is an honour for me to be able to learn off him. Always I am learning off him, because like him I want to become a part of football history.

What about Luis Suarez, what specific qualities does he offer to the team?

Now you can see he is scoring a lot of goals, but even earlier in the season when the goals were not there he was working hard for the team. He wasn’t thinking I have to score he was happy creating chances for us, that says a lot about his character.

Tell us something about the off-pitch relationship between you, Messi and Suarez. Who is the joker, who is the loud one, who is the most serious? How does the chemistry work?

We laugh every day in training. Of course we work hard to achieve what we want, but there is a lot of laughter also at Barcelona.

Off the pitch you always look happy and smiling. Do you have to work at that sometimes or does it come naturally?

It is all natural, I have much to smile about.

You are only 23 but have scored more than 200 career goals – far more than either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age. Do you have personal ambitions to achieve as much as they have?

They have both achieved and won many things which is also my ambition, but I am not looking to replicate anybody.

Messi and Ronaldo are both a few years older than you – do you want to inherit their status as the best player in the world after they have retired? Does personal recognition like that motivate you?

I have always had the ambition to be the best player in the world. At the moment it is Messi, but yes one day of course I would like to be.

How long do you think you will stay at Barcelona? Will you be like Messi, Iniesta and Xavi and stay forever, or are you curious to have different experiences?

There is nowhere to go when you are at Barcelona, I believe I am playing for the best team in the world.


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