Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has faced criticism in his home country of Brazil after missing Pele’s funeral to train in France. The Selecao legend’s funeral ceremony takes place on Tuesday with fans queuing through the night to pay their respects, and some were surprised to discover that national team hero Neymar is not in attendance.
Pele passed away aged 82 in Sao Paulo before the New Year after a battle with cancer. Tributes quickly poured in, including from Neymar himself, for the player who many consider to be the greatest of all time.
“Before Pele, ’10’ was just a number,” he wrote on Instagram. “I read this sentence somewhere, at some point in my life. But this beautiful sentence is incomplete. I would say that before Pele, football was just a sport. Pele changed everything.
“He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to blacks and above all he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will remain. Pele is ETERNAL!”
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“If Neymar wanted to be freed, he came,” he said. “Neymar could very well have pressured PSG to come here. He has already pressed the club several times to come to parties, why not ask PSG to say goodbye to Pele? I think Neymar, as a Brazilian player, had an obligation to come and see Pele’s coffin to say goodbye to him. It was important for Brazilian football.”
The 30-year-old is a crucial player for PSG despite the presence of fellow global superstars, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, in attack. Neymar has notched an incredible 11 goals and 10 assists in just 15 Ligue 1 outings this campaign and his father was forced to address the forward’s absence from Pele’s funeral this week.
“It is a sad moment for the family and for all of us,” explained Neymar Sr. “Today is to support the family, we have lost a lot. He inspired so many people and the sport, he got us here today. He has inspired all generations, he has always been a reference.
“That’s why my son asked me to be here instead. To support the family. We know what it is to lose someone and we have not only lost an athlete, we have lost a citizen, the person Pele. No, Neymar is not going to come.”