Real Madrid starlet Rodrygo slams Neymar's World Cup critics
Real Madrid's €54 million teenager Rodrygo says Neymar is a victim of a double standard amid the criticism the Brazil superstar suffered for his playacting at this summer's World Cup, saying "nobody says anything" when players from other countries exaggerate fouls.
Despite Brazil exiting in the quarterfinals, only Eden Hazard suffered more fouls than Neymar in Russia. However, the PSG man became a target of widespread ridicule from fans and media for at times over-selling contact in an attempt to get the referee's attention.
And Santos starlet Rodrygo, who some have dubbed the "Next Neymar," defended the former Barcelona forward on Thursday, telling Folha de Sao Paulo: "Of course criticism exists, especially because Brazil weren't champions, but if Neymar played like he did and was champion, they would say that he was the best [player] at the World Cup.
"I can't really understand the criticisms. I think it's too much."
Some of Neymar's embellished reactions have become viral sensations on social media, with videos of individuals imitating his falls becoming a trend worldwide. But Rodrygo said he perceives a set of rules for Brazilians that doesn't exist for players from other countries.
"I think it's the way he defends himself and I see many other players from other national teams doing the same thing, but don't suffer the same consequences as him," the 17-year-old said. "I see a lot of players from other national teams throwing themselves to ground, simulating fouls, but when it comes to a Brazilian, it creates a disproportionate dimension. What they say is very unfair."
Real Madrid spent more than €50m to secure the services of Rodrygo last month, one year after splashing a record amount for a teenager when the club signed Flamengo forward Vinicius Junior for a total of €62m.
Vinicius joined the club for preseason training last week after turning 18, with reports in Spain suggesting the promising winger will be loaned to a smaller La Liga side this year.
Asked if he would face a similar fate when he joins the club sometime next year, Rodrygo said: "Honestly, it's something that doesn't even cross my mind."
"They are things that I do not think will happen, and we have to be very honest about that."