Neymar should never have left Barcelona: Bebeto
Neymar's development has been stunted since he left Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain two years ago.
That's the opinion of Brazil legend Bebeto, who believes the 27-year-old superstar should have never left the Nou Camp.
Bebeto, who was a key part of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning side, made the comments at a pre-match media session at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Johor. He was in Malaysia to play a charity match organised by Johor Darul Ta'zim last night.
Said the 55-year-old through a translator: "I think Neymar never should have left Barcelona. If he had not moved to PSG, maybe we can talk about Neymar in the same breath as Lionel Messi.
"He learnt a lot from Luis Suarez and Messi, and he was on the way to becoming one of the greatest players, and then he decided to move to PSG...
"Of course, PSG are a big club, but Barcelona are on a different level and they have the players who can make you improve as a footballer."
Neymar became the world's most expensive footballer in August 2017, when he joined the French champions for 222 million euros (S$341.2m).
But his career seems to have stagnated since. Last week, Barcelona vice-president Jordi Cardoner confirmed that Neymar is seeking a return.
When asked why Neymar could have left for PSG, Bebeto said: "Football today has changed a lot. Today, there is too much money involved and it's something you cannot stop.
"Money is probably the main reason he moved to PSG.
"For me, money is not the most important thing in life.
"He was happy in Barcelona before, and if he moves again to Barcelona, he is going to be happy again, and that is going to be good for him."
Neymar's time in France has also been plagued by controversy recently. Last month, he was questioned by Brazilian police over allegations he raped a woman he met through social media in a Paris hotel, which he has since denied.
But Bebeto retains belief in the player.
He said : "Even at 27, I believe he still has time to fulfil his potential. Now he needs to take more care of his personal and professional life.
"I like Neymar a lot as a player and as a person...
"The problems he is having now with the girl... (is) going to help him grow a lot. In the future, he is not going to make the mistakes he made before."
Bebeto is looking forward to a mouth-watering Copa America semi-final between Brazil and Argentina on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).
He believes the fans at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao Stadium could play a key role. He said: "It is going to be very important to use the home ground to their advantage. That may make the difference, the supporters."
- DEEPANRAJ GANESAN