Barcelona ‘would have won two or three Champions Leagues’ if Neymar had not left for PSG, claims Pep Guardiola, recalling telling Lionel Messi and Co the Brazilian was ‘the King of Santos’ ‘during the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup Final.
- Pep Guardiola insists Barcelona would have dominated Europe had they kept Neymar
- Barcelona won the Champions League with Neymar, Messi and Suarez in 2015
- However, two years later Barca sold the winger to PSG in a record-breaking £ 198million deal
- Guardiola also recalled how he spoke about Neymar to his Barca team in 2011
- He hailed Neymar as ‘the King of Santos’ when he faced him at the Club World Cup
Pep Guardiola had his winning Barcelona team sit down for video analysis ahead of the 2011 Club World Championship final. Santos was waiting; an amount unknown to Europeans in Japan.
The gang started rolling and focused on a teenager who, despite having already made his debut in Brazil, was not quite the world superstar who transcended the sport a decade later.
Neymar performed sambas on screen. Barcelona watched and drooled over the 15 clips flashing in front of them. Guardiola here proclaimed “the king of Santos” and that he needed special attention. Barcelona eventually won that final 4-0 but ended up spending over £ 70million on him 18 months later.
Pep Guardiola insists Barcelona would have won two or three Champions League titles this decade if they kept Neymar (right), Lionel Messi (middle) and Luis Suarez (left) together
“All the players were speechless,” Guardiola said.
“What a player. It is a joy to watch. I appreciate it as a viewer. He has Brazil on his shoulders, the No. 10 in Brazil is not easy to carry.
“It helps improve football. I’m pretty sure if he had stayed at Barcelona they would have won a couple more Champions Leagues.
Big predictions from a big fan who joked that he expected a sleepless night before Manchester City tried to stop Neymar in the French capital on Wednesday night.
Barcelona and their former player were both open to a reunion in 2019, but PSG sporting director Leonardo couldn’t accept losing his precious asset as the club tried to break through the European elite.
Guardiola (left) praised Neymar ahead of their Champions League meeting
The Spaniard recalls telling his Barcelona players that Neymar was ‘the king of Santos’ in 2011
Neymar – who has 41 goals in 67 Champions League appearances – was restless at the time, unhappy with the club’s lack of competitiveness. They had been embarrassed by Manchester United in the last 16 games and had left at this point a year earlier. He couldn’t see the progress. The Parisians weren’t too attached to him at the time either.
But Leonardo held on, PSG reached last year’s final amid a pandemic that thwarted any possibility of sky-high transfer fees across the continent, and Neymar has indicated he is ready to commit his long term future for the club.
“I have been by far my happiest this season,” said the 29-year-old. “Since my arrival at PSG, we all know that I have had difficulties. I overcame them.
“My main goal is to win this competition. I have always been a professional player. Some people think badly of me. This season we have beaten Bayern in the quarter-finals and will do everything we can to beat Manchester City.
Neymar desperately needs to win the Champions League since joining PSG in 2017
Although Neymar’s mood centers on the club’s ambitions and performance in Europe, there must be something to be said for Mauricio Pochettino’s role.
Even the most mercurial of talents love to play under him and the Hotspur Way scenes after his sacking by Tottenham last season, the funeral-like place testifies to that notion.
Pochettino has always been a human person and watching Neymar and him laughing at something behind the Zoom goal on Tuesday was seeing two men getting along.
Pochettino has never offered anyone preferential treatment. “My approach with him is natural,” said Pochettino.
“Discipline is important. We allow them to do what they need, but we respect all players equally.
Neymar, who became a god again in Paris after flirting elsewhere, was never treated normally. Maybe that was the key to her happiness.
Guardiola insists Neymar could have dominated Europe in ‘best three forward’ he has seen