Neymar: If it is time, I'll leave
SAO PAULO -- Neymar may make his much-anticipated move to European football before his contract with Brazilian club Santos ends after next year's World Cup.
The Brazilian forward reiterated that he is happy at Santos but said he may leave any time he wants. He said all the talk about his future is being made by people "who don't know anything" about his life.
"If I feel that it's time to leave, I'll leave," Neymar said after Santos' match in the Sao Paulo state championship on Sunday. "If I feel it's the right thing to do, why not? This is personal. I will make this decision, nobody else."
Until now, Neymar had constantly said he will not move to Europe before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, dismissing constant reports in Brazil and abroad of his impending transfer.
Brazil teammate Daniel Alves recently told Spanish media that the striker has already reached a deal to join him at Barcelona later this year, but Neymar downplayed the statements as rumors.
"What if I say that (Lionel) Messi is coming to Santos?" Neymar joked. "I thank Daniel for what he said, he is a good friend, but I'm happy at Santos right now."
Many in Brazil have been saying that Neymar needs to move to European football to gain experience and reach his full potential. Among those favoring his transfer are assistant Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, former Brazil star Zico and former Brazil coach Mano Menezes. But the player said he is happiest when playing at home, close to his relatives and friends. The 21-year-old Neymar has a young son in Brazil, although he is not married.
Neymar has been struggling in recent matches and had another lackluster performance in Santos' 0-0 draw with rival Corinthians on Sunday. He was not a factor throughout the match, making several mistakes and receiving a yellow card that suspended him from the next match.
"It wasn't good," he said briefly of his performance, while being mobbed by journalists after the final whistle.
Neymar is touted as the future of Brazilian football but has been criticized for disappointing performances in key matches with Santos and Brazil. He was attacked by critics in Brazil and abroad after playing poorly in Brazil's 2-1 loss to England in a recently friendly.
He is a celebrity in Brazil and some local media have linked his poor play to the recent announcement that he is officially dating a local soap opera star.