Barcelona forward Neymar finds himself at the centre of unwanted media attention in Spain as his struggling team’s promising season threatens to unravel after a run of defeats.
The Brazilian has not scored in his last five games and is being portrayed as one of the reasons for Barca’s woes after three straight La Liga losses has seen them caught by Atletico Madrid, who have also knocked them out of the Champions League.
Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia this week focussed on the 24-year-old’s conduct off the pitch, particularly his “trips away, parties at unadvisable times and commercial commitments”. He visited Brazil in March for his sister’s birthday party.
TV programme ‘El Dia Despues (The Day After) on Tuesday showed Neymar arguing with Jordi Ala during Sunday’s home defeat by Valencia after the defender chose not to pass to him. Camera footage showed Neymar appearing to swear at his team mate.
Barcelona play Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday looking to get their title bid back on track with the cover of newspaper Mundo Deportivo focussing on Neymar, pictured between Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, below the headline ‘This cannot go on’.
The focus on Neymar comes at a time when his future at Barcelona is unclear. The Brazilian is negotiating a new contract, although newspaper reports say Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain are trying to tempt him away.
Barca vice president Jordi Mestre has denied that the club has any intention of selling Neymar, who came third in the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards behind Messi and Ronaldo in January.
“We are delighted with Neymar and he is not for sale. It’s not even crossed our minds,” Mestre told Barca TV on Tuesday. “We are absolutely satisfied with his performances and his behaviour.”
Another bone of contention between Barcelona and Neymar is his willingness to play for Brazil in the Centenary Copa America in June and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Mestre made it clear the club only want Neymar to play in one of the tournaments.
“We can’t prevent him from playing in a FIFA competition, but we recommend that he only plays one competition because he has played a lot of games,” he said.
“The seasons are long and tough and we believe he should rest, but it’s a decision he has to make with the coaches. We’ve made the recommendation we feel is best for everyone.”