Barcelona forward Neymar has played down criticism that he dives, instead preferring to focus on how happy he is at having settled so quickly at the Camp Nou.
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Neymar’s tumbling has come into focus this week, with Celtic manager Neil Lennon accusing the Brazilian of overreacting to getting kicked by Scott Brown during Wednesday’s Champions League game, while Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho then alluded to “disgraceful” behaviour in Glasgow last week during a complaint about diving in European football.
Simulation was also a theme of the Liga leaders' 4-1 win over Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, during which referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes turned down two clear penalty appeals from Barca’s summer signing.
Speaking to reporters after the game, the former Santos player said that both penalties should have been given but he accepted the official had been mistaken.
“Both were clear,” Neymar said. “But everyone makes mistakes, that is part of football.”
Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez said in his post-match press conference that Neymar was a magnificent player, but with “just one defect that I am not going say”.
Neymar’s response, however, was characteristically innocent, saying: “I do not know what [Martinez] means by that, but I hope it is something good. If it is I will listen closely to what he says.”
The 21-year-old was on steadier ground, though, when thanking team-mate Alexis Sanchez for unselfishly providing the pass for his goal.
“Today, Alexis could have scored three goals but he preferred to give me an assist,” Neymar said.
Blaugrana fans and pundits have been increasingly impressed with the 65 million euro signing -- who now has three goals and six assists in 11 games for Barca, while showing a welcome humility and willingness to learn.
Neymar himself said he had enjoyed playing centrally in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi against Valladolid, but more importantly, he had been given another chance to help his team-mates.
“I just want to help the team, in whatever position,” he said. “I do what [coach Gerardo] Martino tells me. He decides. For Santos and Brazil I have played where I played today. I am happy to have started the season well and to be helping the team. For me that is the most important.”