Neymar had to leave Lionel Messi's shadow, succeed on his own – Dani Alves
Paris Saint-Germain right-back Dani Alves has claimed Neymar had to leave Barcelona in order to escape Lionel Messi’s shadow and become a success in his own right.
The Brazilian superstar swapped Camp Nou for Parc des Princes last summer, and speaking with FIFA, Alves explained that he feels that his compatriot is now on an even footing with Messi.
“I think Neymar is up there with Lionel as the most influential player in world football,” said Alves. “The thing is, he had to come out of his shadow a little. Playing with someone as unique as Leo is the most incredible thing that can happen to you but there is always that doubt in your mind if it is you that really has the quality or if it is him.
“I always loved playing with him but he is Argentinian and Ney and I are Brazilian, sooner or later we had to come up against each other!
“I think you have got a better chance of achieving things individually when you are not so close to a player like him. It was important for Ney’s own development and for Brazil for him to follow his own path.”
Alves, who also joined PSG last summer — from Juventus and not Barca — rejected the idea that he played a key role in bringing Neymar towards the Ligue 1 leaders.
“I hardly had anything to do with it, though I was involved when Neymar signed for Barcelona,” Alves said. “I gave him some advice and told him about all the good things I had experienced at the club and in the city.
“It was not like that this time, though. It was just a case of me getting here before him, though there was a moment when he was unsure about what to do. I just told him to follow his heart and be happy. That was the only advice I gave him.”
Alves and Neymar are both targeting Champions League success with PSG. And if that is to happen this season, Unai Emery’s men are going to have to overcome Real Madrid in the round of 16.
The first leg is at Santiago Bernabeu early next month, and Alves has stressed the importance of Les Parisiens pulling together — not just Neymar’s individual brilliance.
“That is what Neymar and I are setting our sights on,” said Alves. “It is our main goal. It is what Ney was thinking when he left Barca and it is what I was thinking when I left Juve. That is what moves us. That is what excites us and gets our adrenaline pumping.
“The world belongs to the brave. If you are not brave, you are always in the shadows and that is not where we want to be. We had nothing in Brazil and we wanted to make something of our lives.
“You need more than big names to win a competition like the Champions League. You can have great players but if you do not have a team you are not going to make it.
“We are ready to compete and the question of whether that preparation leads us to victory or elimination is going to depend on how we work as a team.”
Alves is currently serving a three-match suspension with a potential extra game in suspended sentence after he was shown a red card in the 2-1 defeat away at Lyon in Le Championnat recently.
Asked on Saturday about the upcoming clash with Real Madrid, Neymar stated his admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo and his Los Blancos side.
“We are very respectful of Cristiano Ronaldo, because of the history he has made in football,” Neymar said. “He is the mirror in which I see myself. For 10 years he is at the top along with Leo [Messi]. They are two players that we are trying to get closer to.
“Madrid is not only Cristiano Ronaldo, there are many great players there. And it will be an honor, not only for me but for everyone here, to play against him. “
Neymar also addressed recent transfer speculation that has linked him to a move to the Bernabeu, insisting he’s happy in Paris and with PSG.
He said: “I’m happy with my teammates and I’m happy at PSG. I have good games and numbers and come here to make history and do my best.
“Speculation has always existed and will always exist. Since Santos and in my years in Barcelona, all the transfers windows had something with my name. It’s impossible to stay out of it.
“But I’m happy because it means I’m a good player, and quality players are always speculated.”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.