Neymar has hit out at the people criticising his reactions to being fouled during the World Cup as the world’s most expensive player addressed Brazil’s failure in Russia for the first time.
The five-time world champions were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Belgium, leading Neymar to reveal he “didn’t want to see a ball” for the rest of the tournament.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward spent a total of 14 minutes on the floor during Brazil’s five World Cup games, including his over-the-top theatrics against Mexico which saw him become the butt of a number of social media jokes and memes as he writhed around under minimal contact to his ankle.
However, he has revealed that while he finds the jokes funny, the criticism of him was exaggerated and that he wishes he could play and referee at the same time.
“I saw [the jokes] but I took them with humour,” he said. “Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it.
“My football is to dribble, to face the opponent. I can't stand in front of the opponent and say, 'My dear, excuse me, I want to score a goal'. I have to dribble past him, I have to try to do something and he will not allow me to go past and he will try to foul me.
“A lot of time I'm faster and lighter than other players and they tackle me, and the referee is there for that.
“People were faster to criticise the one being fouled than the one doing the fouling. I went to the World Cup to play, to beat the opposition, not to get kicked. The criticism of me was exaggerated, but I'm a big boy, I'm used to dealing with this kind of thing.
“I can't be the referee and play at the same time, but there are times I wish I could.”
Neymar also revealed he “was in mourning” after Belgium ended their World Cup dream.
"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," 26-year-old Neymar told AFP.
"I was in mourning, I was really sad about it, but sadness passes, I have my son, my family, my friends and they don't want to see me moping around. I've got more reason to be happy than sad.”
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