Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has admitted he was afraid he might suffer a relapse of his metatarsal injury during his rehabilitation.
Neymar, 26, fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in February and is now back at the club as he looks to prove his fitness ahead of the World Cup with Brazil.
Speaking to former Brazil international Zico on the 65-year-old’s YouTube channel, Canal Zico 10, Neymar said that he was cautious as he began to work on his fitness immediately after surgery.
“Today, I am better,” Neymar said. “At first, I was afraid to make a bad movement. However, I respected what the doctor told me.”
Neymar said PSG planned to play him in the back-to-back games against Marseille in Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France, before resting him against Troyes, but he suffered the injury in the first match.
“I was not supposed to play in the match [Troyes away in Ligue 1] just after the two Marseille games,” Neymar said. “We played against the second best French team in Ligue 1 on the Sunday and then in the Coupe de France quarterfinals on the Wednesday.
“I had spoken with the coach to not play against Troyes in order to be ready for the Champions League [vs. Real Madrid]. Unfortunately, I got injured during the first Marseille match.”
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) May 12, 2018
Neymar also explained that this has been the campaign in which he has played the least first-team football because coach Unai Emery wanted to keep him fresh for their key fixtures.
“I think that this is the season where I have played the least,” he said. “I was almost never in the starting XI. When we played some easier games, the coach did not want me involved — he wanted me primarily for the biggest matches.”
Neymar was very complimentary about strike partner Kylian Mbappe, who will make his loan move to PSG from Monaco permanent in the summer.
“The boy is a beast — I have already told [Brazil teammate] Casemiro that he could find it tough, if we play, at the World Cup,” he added. “Kylian is just incredible. He is football’s rising star — he is the best for his age.”
Neymar explained how proud he was to have played for Barcelona, despite his acrimonious exit for PSG last summer in a €222 million move.
“It was a dream to play for Barca,” he said. “The city gave me a beautiful life and it was a beautiful team.
“I am very pleased to have played with players like Victor [Valdes], Carles [Puyol], Andres [Iniesta] and Xavi. I have always told those closest to me that after Lionel [Messi], Andres was the best player in the world.
“Things were very good with Leo, and then Luis [Suarez] came along and that was the icing on the cake. Things went very well for us and for the team.
“All three of us were close — to the point of being inseparable! Things were very good. We had a nice friendship and that is what I miss most about Barca. We were happy together and true friends.”
Amid heavy speculation linking him with a summer move to Real Madrid, Neymar posted a publicity shot of himself in PSG’s new 2018-19 kit on Twitter, which will be worn by his teammates against Rennes on Saturday, accompanied by the caption, “proud to wear the new jersey and to continue giving you joy.”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.