Piqué+ Neymar

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Gerard Piqué, Defender / FC Barcelona - The Players' Tribune
Neymar Jr, Forward / PSG - The Players' Tribune

 

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Gerard Piqué
Hello, here we are. Gerard Piqué for The Players’ Tribune interviewing my great friend Ney. El amigo del “se queda.” Hahaha! How are you, Ney?

Neymar
Hahaha! I’m doing well, I’m doing well.

Gerard
Yeah, how’s Paris? 

Neymar
It’s good, it’s good. A new life, different.

Gerard
Have you adapted well?

Neymar
Yes, I am adapting. Yeah, I’m adapting well.

Gerard
O.K., great, great. Well, we are not going to talk about either Paris or Barcelona … although you saw Kobe, no? You saw Kobe recently?

Neymar
Yes, yes.

Gerard
How was it? They’re going to retire his shirt now.

Neymar
They’re going to retire his shirt? 

Gerard
Yes, number eight and 24, I believe they told me.

Neymar
Oh, really? I didn’t know…. Kobe is a legend, right? 

Gerard
Do you play basketball?

Neymar
I like it, but I’m really good. You already know that. Hahaha!

Gerard
You are good for our level, but Kobe? … C’mon!

Neymar
No, no, for our level, man … Kobe is impossible. It’s crazy.

Gerard
You played basketball with him or what? 

Neymar
Yeah, we played a little there.

Gerard
Oh, yeah? A few shots.

Neymar
Yeah, a few threes and so on…. But he is incredible.

Gerard
Good, good. Well, we are not going to talk about either Paris or Barcelona. We are going to talk about the World Cups. And especially about the 2018 World Cup in Russia that’s coming up next summer. And, yeah, so Ney, after the last World Cup I assume you’re really looking forward to it?

Neymar
Ouf…. Looking forward to playing, looking forward to being there at the World Cup.  My last World Cup wasn’t so good for what happened with my back, for everything that happened to me. But, well, it already happened, and now the World Cup is approaching and we have a good team. We’re doing well and I hope … I hope we can win one, no? Hahaha!

Gerard
Yeah, I’m hoping we win too.

Neymar
You already won! It’s enough … you won one.

Gerard
That’s true, yes, that’s true. I can’t complain, I can’t complain. Well, we’ll get there. I would like to start from the beginning: What’s the earliest memory you have when talking about the World Cup?

For example, I … damn …  ’94 … Tassotti elbowing Luis Enrique — our buddy Enrique — in the ’94 World Cup in the United States in the quarterfinals, and Spain getting eliminated 2–1 against Italy, and I remember Luis Enrique’s shirt, which was the white national team shirt, all wet in blood. That’s my first memory. I remember being at home with all my family in Blanes on the Costa Brava — that was a summer house we had there  — and it made a huge impact. It was the first image I remember from a World Cup. 

Neymar
Yeah, mine is from the ’94, too. But of Brazil. Although, I was two years old, I think my first memory was on the TV, watching on TV and Romário scoring the goals, one goal that … that Romário scored against Holland   I remember, that Bebeto crosses, and he takes first time, you know, and it’s a “golazo.” That’s the first one. And the second is from 2002. I watched the whole tournament and remember everything … Ronaldo….

Gerard
The haircut, no?

Neymar
Yeah…. Hahaha! The haircut of Ronaldo was good. I had it.

Gerard
Hahaha! You had that haircut?!

Neymar
Yeah.

Gerard
Oh, man, I would love to see that. Do you have a photo?!

Neymar
No, I don’t have a photo. I’ll search. I’ll search for it. My mom has one for sure. But I had Ronaldo’s haircut.

Gerard
All the kids there in Brazil probably had that haircut, no? 

Neymar
All of us, we were all looking like Ronaldo.

Gerard
In that World Cup, it’s true Brazil was really superior.

Neymar
Yes, it was. I think the semifinal against Turkey took a bit of effort, and it was very even there and….

Gerard
I think in every World Cup there is something — 2006 it obviously was Zidane’s final and the headbutt.

Neymar
Yeah, yeah.

Gerard
I think that was … 2002, I could say it was Ronaldo. It was spectacular.

Neymar
Yeah, because he was coming back from knee injury and all.

Gerard
From ’98, too, the final, because of those health issues, was lost 3–0. And in 2010, Iniesta scoring the goal in overtime. In other words, there’s always been … and in 2014 I think it was your injury, because the whole world was waiting for Brazil at home and in that moment there it was … but well, we’ll get there, we’ll get there! Hahaha! Any player or any national team that impressed you during your upbringing, in the World Cups? 

Neymar
In the World Cups … hmmm….

Gerard
Any player in particular, any memorable performance, or any national team? 

Neymar
I mainly remember Brazil — Romário and Ronaldo. They are the two main ones that come to mind when you talk about the World Cup, winning the World Cup, both of them, for the goals they scored, for the plays they made, for taking Brazil to victory.

Gerard
When was the first time you were called up for the national team? Where were you, what were you doing, how was it? 

Neymar
I was … I was finishing up practice.

Gerard
Were you at Santos?

Neymar
No, truth is we had a game at night and in the morning we just did — you know — what we usually do after games.

Gerard
Yes, nothing … Hahaha!

Neymar
Yeah, we did nothing. We went to the gym and there was Mano Menezes making his team selection and everyone was watching the TV.

Gerard
Were there rumors already that you would get picked? 

Neymar
Yes, there were rumors because it was after the World Cup, and people were calling for me for the World Cup. They asked for me.

Gerard
How old were you then?

Neymar
I was 17. And there when my name came up, Ganso’s came up — my good friend — and André’s. The three of us were always together there at Santos, and André was training on the field, playing a game, and when the news was announced, we left running to the field and we grabbed André, the three of us celebrating, a lot of people filming…. It was a tremendous joy. 

Gerard
When you got to the national team, did you have any teammate — one of these veterans — that would act like a big brother, the big-brother figure who would take you and Ganso under his wing?

Neymar
Everyone there … we got there … so Robinho played with us at Santos, when we went, and he took us by the arm there and took care of us. So it was very relaxed.

Gerard
It was quite easy.

Neymar
Everyone who was there, the older ones who were there … we all adapted very well. Everyone helped us, whatever we needed. It was very relaxed.

Gerard
Which would you say are your best and worst moments with the national team? 

Neymar
The best moment on the national team, I believe, is now. And the worst … the worst … I’ve experienced many moments that haven’t been good. But it’s about the injury. The injury has been my worst moment because of the week I went through there — all that. I just cried at home, I would see my mom, my dad, crying — everyone sad, my friends, family … and this, to me, has been the worst moment.  

“… two centimeters to the side … football is over for you.”

Gerard
Let’s go there. Let’s go to the 2014 World Cup. Brazil at home in the quarterfinals against Colombia, looking like you would win. In that moment of the injury, what was it? 1–1 or 1–0? 

Neymar
No, it was already 2–0 for us. 

Gerard
Ah, you were up 2–0.

Neymar
2–0.

Gerard
Wasn’t it that David Luiz scored …

Neymar
It was 2–1.

Gerard
 … scored on a free kick? Yes, and it was after the free kick goal?

Neymar
Yes, Thiago Silva’s goal. Thiago Silva, I think, and David.

Gerard
In other words, 2–0, looking like you would win.

Neymar
There was three, four minutes left.

Gerard
Luiz’s goal was toward the end, because I remember it was toward the end.

Neymar
Yes, yes.

Gerard
So everything’s perfect and you’re almost through to the semifinals. You’re at home. It seems like you’re destined to win. The hope the whole nation has … and suddenly … who was the Colombian player?

Neymar
Zúñiga.

Gerard
Zúñiga tackles you from behind and your back … it happens … in that moment, what goes through your mind? The pain is….

Neymar
and I remember that I had my head on the ground, and Marcelo was saying, “No, no … Get the doctors in.”

And I said, “No, no, no. I want to play.” Because I wanted to score

Gerard
Oh yeah, of course. Hahaha!

Neymar
Because I was crazy. Hahaha! I couldn’t turn and the doctors came in….

“How’s it going?”

“No, no, no, I’m going to to continue.”

And so on.…

But I couldn’t manage to lift my legs. I couldn’t move my legs. And the doctor took me out and I started to … to cry. Because it was very painful and I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel my legs, so I went to the hospital that’s in the stadium. And there they left me and I remember that I was with my leg bent like this, and when I stretched it out….

Gerard
You couldn’t. Unbelievable pain.

Neymar
Ouf … incredible pain, incredible. And then I understood that there was no way to continue.

Gerard
To continue the tournament.

Neymar
Then I went to the hospital, did the tests and all, and they told me, “I have two pieces of news. One good and one bad.”

And I was like, “The bad one first.”

“The bad one: You can’t play the World Cup. It’s over for you.”

And I’m like, “What’s the good one?”

Gerard
That you can walk …

Neymar
“The good one is that afterward you will be able to walk, because two centimeters to the side …”

Gerard
Wow.

Neymar
“ … football is over for you.”

And … well … there … there I just want them to tell my family. And they were all there — my girlfriend, my dad, my sister, mom, friends. They tell them that they can see me, and well, then a whole bad week started.

Gerard
How many days did you stay at the hospital? Afterward.

Neymar
No, I stayed for a day at the hospital.

Gerard
So, in other words, you watched the semifinals against Germany at home or…?

Neymar
At home. I went home because, when I got injured, I went to the team camp where my teammates were, took my stuff, saw the doctor and so on, and then went home by helicopter because I couldn’t move my legs … I couldn’t move.…

Gerard
So you’re in a wheelchair? 

Neymar
Yes, I was in a wheelchair. And I went home, and there I watched it all.

Gerard
Wow … you watched the semifinal.

Neymar
I watched the semifinal … the semifinal … no … pffff … I don’t know what happened.

Gerard
I was in Las Vegas.

Neymar
Hahaha!

Gerard
Hahaha! I was just waking up and I turn on the TV: Minute 20, 4–0. I say, “Man, what’s going on? Incredible.”

Neymar
Yeah, it was a very strange thing. I think in 30 games something like this wouldn’t happen. I really don’t know what was going on. I was watching and …

Gerard
I think that people …

Neymar
… What the hell is going on?

Gerard
I think without you … I think Thiago Silva was suspended too?

Neymar
Yes, Thiago didn’t play. Me and Alves didn’t play, either.

Gerard
I think that the team — or, Thiago and Dani were really good — but what happened to you with the injury, I think people….

Neymar
Yes, they feel bad, too. But I don’t know, it was one of those days that….

Gerard
Everything went wrong.

Neymar
That everything went wrong. And at the same time, everything went right for them. But, well, it’s difficult to talk about this from the outside, because I asked everyone who was on the pitch, and they said, “We don’t know what happened. Nothing worked. We couldn’t do anything. Nothing.”

And, well, it was a disaster for us because….

Gerard
Clearly….

Neymar
Nobody forgets, and talking about the national team … up until six months ago, it was “the national team of 7–1” … Everyone in Brazil and outside, were talking.

Gerard
One word to describe that World Cup?

Neymar
That World Cup … pffff … One word. Just … screwed … It’s very difficult because….

Gerard
There were a lot of expectations.

Neymar
There can be hope … there can be growth … there can be faith … I can’t really find more words … But for me, it’s been bad. I would rather lose 7–1 than get injured, you know? But I was out, without wanting to be out.

Gerard
World Cup 2018.

Neymar
This one, yes, yes.

Gerard
This one, yes, right. This one already sounds better. Hahaha! And you guys are doing more than well. You’ve already qualified. How do you see these teams? How can they be suffering that much? The level of teams that didn’t use to be that good has gotten better.

Neymar
Yes, I think the level has gotten better. I think they are better prepared to play against stronger national teams, against better players, and I think the preparation is very good because all national teams today manage to come out playing, manage to tie away games, and the football is very tough, very difficult … Eh, Leo’s Argentina … Hahaha! … yet again, suffering a lot.

Gerard
I’ll tell you, I’ve had him in the locker room and I tell you he has suffered Hahaha!

Neymar
I’ve always talked with him … ’ey c’mon you gotta, win man! Otherwise — Hahaha! Out! And it’s been tough for them, but we’ve done well. The coach implemented an amazing playing rhythm.

Gerard
Do you see yourselves as favorites? 

Neymar
I think not only Brazil — all national teams that have strong numbers, that have quality players — are favorites. Like Brazil, Spain, Argentina, France, Germany — these five teams, to me, are favorites.

Gerard
I think you are a slight bit above everyone else. I think us, Germany, Argentina, France are a little bit … we are all at a very similar level. And you — you are a bit above. Up top, you have a lot of firepower. You have Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, you’re there.

Neymar
We have people.

Gerard
In the middle, you’re strong with Paulinho, and defensively you are a good team. You’re very complete.

Neymar
Yes, yes. Honestly, we’re well structured. Right, we’ve managed to find our game.

Gerard
Stability, balance.

Neymar
Yes, yes.

Gerard
You have a teammate who’s about to play in his first World Cup — Mbappé. They speak very highly of him. He has some stats when it comes to goals and assists that are very good — already in Monaco, and this year in Paris. What are your thoughts on him?  

Neymar
I see him doing very well. He’s a great player. He’s got a lot of quality — a lot of quality. He’s someone who’ll end up in the football history books.

Gerard
Really?

Neymar
Yes, he has a lot of quality, if he continues like this. He’s a good guy, he works hard. I think he has a bright future.

Gerard
Who do you think will be the surprise of the World Cup?

Neymar
The surprise of the World Cup …

Gerard
Who makes a good appearance, doesn’t necessarily have to win it. 

Neymar
Yeah, yeah … but … Iceland.

Gerard
Iceland, eh? I was going to say the same thing.

Neymar
You too? I watched one of their games and they played well. I liked it. They have to … they’ll surprise … Watch out.

Gerard
They already qualified for the last Euro Cup.

Neymar
Yeah, yeah, watch out.

Gerard
It’s a very rare case, as the population — it’s a country with a very low population.

Neymar
Yes, yes, it’s very nice when….

Gerard
The celebration they have….

Neymar
Yes, yes.

Gerard
At the end of the games.

Neymar
Yes, yes, yes.

Gerard
Well, in conclusion … right now, would you “sign off” on a final, Spain vs Brazil, 3–3, including a hat trick by you … But we, Spain, win on penalties? Hahaha! Hat trick in the final!

Neymar
Hahaha! No, no, no … gotta win.

Gerard
You don’t “sign off,” eh? Hahaha!

Neymar
No, 3–3, you score a hat trick, we win … Hahaha!

Gerard
Hahaha! That won’t happen in my lifetime. It’s not an option. 

Neymar
It almost happened….

Gerard
At Celta’s stadium — at Celta’s field! Hahaha! Not in a World Cup final!

Neymar
Almost happened there. Hahaha!

Gerard
So you won’t “sign off?”

Neymar
No, no.

Gerard
There’s no way? 

Neymar
No, no, no. There’s no way, Geri, brother. I love you, but….

Gerard
I would let you through, eh? I would let you score a hat trick. Hahaha!

Neymar
You didn’t let me through in the Confederations Cup. Remember? Hahaha!

Gerard
Yeah, yeah … I had let you before….

Neymar
And was red carded … and I was hit….

Gerard
Red card. Hahaha! Seventieth minute, red … that game, it was already 3–0…. There was no way.

Neymar
Yes, we were … for us, it was incredible.

Gerard
Yes, yes, yes. You were in the glory. 

Neymar
Yes, we had to win. Hahaha!

Gerard
Yeah, yeah take it easy. Us too. Hahaha! It’s the only title we haven’t won …  The Confederations Cup, thanks to you.

Neymar
Me? Hahaha!

Gerard
That day you were out of this world. Anyway, Ney, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. It’s the first time I do an interview. 

Neymar
It’s really good — your calling after football. Hahaha!

Gerard
No, not at all. But I wanted to try it today, that’s all. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure and thank you so much, Ney, sincerely.

Neymar
O.K.

Gerard
Great, see you later, Crack.

The Secret

When Barcelona made their incredible comeback against Paris St.-Germain in the Champions League, I was watching every moment from my couch. You might think from reading the newspapers that I was hoping my old club would lose. But when my brother Neymar scored that beautiful free kick? I jumped up from my couch and was screaming at the television.

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