Neymar reveals what Lionel Messi said to him after he almost cried during Barcelona match

  • Rob Swan

Neymar was the most exciting player to emerge from South American football for years when Barcelona signed him from Santos in 2013.

The 21-year-old forward, who cost Barça a reported £48.6 million at the time, had lit up the Brazilian top flight for several years thanks to his outrageous skills and sublime solo goals.

And football fans couldn’t wait to see how the youngster would fare in Europe, playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi at the Camp Nou.

There were question marks over Neymar’s maturity while his tendency to dive in order to win free-kicks and penalties was also pointed out as a potential problem.

However, to the surprise of many, Neymar knuckled down from the moment he joined Barça and made it abundantly clear that he was happy playing second-fiddle to Messi.

In practically every interview he gave during his first season at Barcelona, Neymar happily stated his belief that Messi was the world’s best footballer. He idolised his new teammate and this suited everybody.

Several years later and it had dawned on Neymar that he would need to leave the Camp Nou in order to escape from Messi’s shadow and boost his own chances of winning the Ballon d’Or. But while he was at Barça, he never made things awkward by trying to oust Messi as the Catalan giants’ main man.

Neymar: What Messi said to me when I nearly cried

Almost a year after leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar has conducted a wide-ranging interview with Brazilian TV show Altas Horas and revealed how his relationship with Messi took off.

The 26-year-old admits he endured some tough moments during his early days at Barça and there was one match where he felt like crying because nothing he was trying on the pitch was working. Frustrated and upset with how things were going, Neymar was approached by Messi inside the dressing room at half-time.

“I remember a game with Barcelona. I was nearly crying because things weren’t coming off for me,” Neymar was quoted a saying by Sport. “It was half-time and Messi came up to me and told me that I only had to be the same player I had always been, to be myself.

“‘You have to be yourself,’ he told me. ‘You can’t be intimidated to be playing alongside me or [Andres] Iniesta,’ he insisted.”

‘I tell this story to people all the time’

Neymar added: “To see the humility of a guy that has won it all, that is the best in the world, asking you to be yourself and show your best, without any kind of vanity, was something I loved.

“I tell that story all the time to my family, to my friends. He helped me a lot professionally, of course, but also personally.

“To play with stars like Messi, Iniesta and Xavi makes you a little shy. But after speaking with Messi I came out of myself, showed what I had, relaxed and played with confidence.

“Since that day, I have had a huge friendship with Messi.”

It’s a lovely story and sums up what a genuine guy Messi is.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner could have told Neymar to sort himself out at that moment but, instead, decided to put an arm around his fellow South American.

It clearly made a huge difference to Neymar, who went on to score 39 goals in all competitions the following season.

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