‘Neymar can make a difference for Brazil’: Premier League star Willian


DUBAI: Opinions are often divided among football fans when it comes to Neymar.

Alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona from 2014 to 2017, the striker was part of a triumvirate to rival the most skilful and powerful attacks in the game.

They amassed a combined 363 goals, 173 assists and numerous trophies before Neymar was sold when Paris Saint-Germain paid his €222m buyout clause.

The transfer – and still a world record – in 2017 may not have been the success story he or the club envisioned.

Although dominating in the domestic competition, the Qatar-owned French side are yet to win the Champions League, despite a talent array that also includes Kylian Mbappe and Messi after arriving from Barcelona in 2021, and the performance and Neymar’s contribution questioned by critics.

And for Brazil; Is Neymar’s name rightly alongside the all-time greats if it doesn’t lead them to World Cup success?

Despite scoring 75 international goals – just two shy of Pele’s legendary record – in 121 appearances, the 30-year-old only won gold at the 2016 Olympics with the national team in major competition.

Injury saw him miss out when Brazil infamously lost the 2014 World Cup semi-final to Germany 7-1 in their home tournament, before retiring in the quarter-finals in Russia four years later. later with a defeat against Belgium.

At the Copa America, Willian replaced the injured Neymar before the Selecao won the 2019 tournament, and they lost last year’s final to Argentina last year, even with their talisman in their ranks. .

But Willian, capped 70 times by his country, has no doubts about Neymar’s quality or influence for his club or country.

“Neymar is an incredible player, he can make a difference for Brazil at any time,” he said.

“From the first minute to the last minute, he is a special player for Brazil.”

The pressure, however, will be on Neymar and Brazil at next month’s tournament in Qatar.

Led by Tite – who had brief stints at UAE Al Ain and Al Wahda – Brazil are among the favorites to win a sixth title, but their first since 2002.

“I think the pressure is normal,” added Fulham midfielder Willian. “Brazil is a huge country, with a lot of history, it has already won the World Cup five times and still wants to win.

“Brazil always has the chance to win the World Cup because Brazil is Brazil, with so many quality players.

“But at the same time we know how difficult it is to win the World Cup and there will be other quality national teams as well.

“But I hope it’s time for them to win again… and now I expect Brazil to go over there to Qatar and win this World Cup.”

Willian will follow their fortunes from England, having made a surprise return to the Premier League in September.

He won two titles in seven seasons with Chelsea before joining Arsenal on a free transfer in 2020.

But the move to Emirates Stadium proved an unfortunate experience which he called off after just one year on a three-year contract.

A stint at his boyhood club Corinthians followed, but death threats on social media prompted another early exit.

Fulham have offered Willian a contract until the end of the season and the 34-year-old has already impressed, scoring his first goal in a 3-2 win at Leeds that lifted the club to seventh place.

Manager Marco Silva thinks his cunning and experience will be invaluable to a team that was promoted last season.

And Willian is enjoying the chance to roll back the years.

“I just wanted to play in the Premier League again,” he said. “For me, it’s the best league in the world.

“To play in the Premier League you have to have fun and I do – I feel so good to be back.

“I enjoy the moment, I enjoy the game but, at the same time, always to win. I want to compete, I want to score goals, play well.

“I think I’m getting younger too. I’m 34, but I feel like 28, something like that. I feel good and enjoy this moment a lot. I want to play until I’m 40 if possible, I wish. I have to take care of myself off the pitch, but I feel good.

Fulham’s impressive start to the season was the talk of a first appearance in European competition since joining the Europa League in 2011, via the Fair Play League.

In the 2009-10 campaign, they reached the Europa League final, where they lost to Atletico Madrid.

But Willian added: “You know how tough this league is so we have to go step by step, game by game and I think we are doing that.

“It’s too early to think about Europe but we have ambition and, of course, if it’s possible, we want to go there.

“This team is a very good team with a lot of players who want to win, who have the ambition to win things – and I’m proud to play for Fulham at the moment.

“But I don’t play alone, I need the team, they need me and it’s a mix. I learn from them and I’m here to help them and to help the team as much as possible to win games.


Comments are closed.