Neymar has vowed to be fit and better than ever at this summer’s World Cup in Russia after revealing he hopes to be cleared to return to action at a May 17 medical examination.
Speaking at a sponsor event in Sao Paulo on Tuesday, the 26-year-old addressed his continued recovery in Brazil from a broken bone in his right foot and acknowledged he was immediately concerned about his future.
“I intend to arrive [in Russia] better than I was before,” Neymar said. “Of course, there were doubts — even I had doubts, but that is normal after such an injury. It was the first surgery of my career. I had never been through this before.”
Neymar was originally expected to be out for the remainder of PSG’s season, but scans taken after surgery have made it plausible he could return for the final game against at Caen on May 19.
“There is not a set date yet,” Neymar said. “If I’m not mistaken, my last exam to get full clearance will be on May 17, which is the date where I will probably be able to play again.
“It all depends on the evolution of the treatment and the next exams I go through so I have more details, but if I have to set a date where I have full clearance, will probably be close to May 17.”
Neymar said he is in regular contact with both the Brazil national team and PSG, and that the organisations are also in communication with each other regarding his recovery.
“I always talk with [Brazil] coach Tite, [Brazil’s team coordinator] Edu Gaspar, Rica, who is our physical trainer … and everyone else there,” Neymar said. “They are always talking to Paris, too. We are always exchanging information.
“I have been through some exams last week and it’s all perfect. Everything is evolving according to plan. I hope it keeps going like that so I can return as soon as possible.
Christophe Dugarry, the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner with France who once played for Barcelona, criticised Neymar earlier this week for his absence as PSG secured their seventh Ligue 1 title by thumping second-place Monaco 7-1 on Sunday.
That Neymar posted photos on Instagram of himself playing online poker during the game drew Dugarry’s ire, but Neymar said he has remained focused on his fitness while participating in other activities.
“I do a little bit of everything, but everything with ice,” Neymar said. “I don’t have ice on my foot right now because it’s not possible. Physiotherapy is the most important thing of everything I’ve been doing, for sure. But I’ve been able to do basically everything I enjoy doing.
“I have a girlfriend, but during physiotherapy, she has to wait. I play poker, which is my favourite hobby, while treating my injury. I play video games at my computer while treating my injury. My day basically begins at nine, 10 a.m. and it goes until 9 p.m. while treating my injury.”
Neymar also said it has been hard for him to watch PSG’s games from a distance even though the club have continued to win games since his injury.
“Whether I want it or not, it has been very difficult for me,” Neymar said. “Not being able to play, to practice, being out of my work environment — which is the best part, the locker room, being around my friends, being able to practice, concentrating and playing matches — it has been very difficult staying here in Brazil and watching my team play, score goals, win titles.
“I really wish I could be with them. But there’s one priority for me, which is my health, and I have to take care of it.”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.