Folding His Cards: Why Neymar Didn't Compete in the Olympics

Mon 09 August 2021 | 6:05

Brazil's men's soccer team opened their Olympic Games in Tokyo with a fine 4-2 win against Germany.

The two teams are old rivals, with the latter humbling Selecao 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup. Two years later, back in Brazil, the host nation gained some revenge in the Gold medal match at the Olympics. In 2021, Brazil put themselves ahead in their mini-series, with a world-class performance from their number ten. He bagged a hat trick in a sensational outing, underlining his potential as a world star.

That number ten wasn't 


, though. Instead, it was Everton's Richarlison, wearing Neymar's shirt with his blessing. The superstar of Brazilian football didn't miss out through injury; he didn't even travel to Tokyo. That's because the decision to release players doesn't lay with the country but the club team. "I am very happy and thanked Everton for releasing me," Richarlison told 


. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. They pay my salary."

Neymar's salary is paid by Paris St Germain, his club team, and he did not get permission to go. It isn't surprising either; the mercurial talent has often been injured for his employers, missing lots of key matches. He barely appeared in half of their domestic fixtures last season, watching as his side eventually conceded the Ligue 1 title to Lille. With Champions League success also still eluding the French side, Neymar will be needed fit and raring to go this season.

Couple that with his already punishing Copa America schedule, in which he appeared in six matches, and he certainly needs a rest before the French domestic season starts. Mauricio Pochettino needs the world's most expensive player to perform on the big stage, and a little time off might help him focus on a big season ahead.

Once believed to be the natural successor to Messi and Ronaldo, Neymar has never quite hit the heights many expected. He was a high-profile figure at the time of the 2014 World Cup, and the 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany hurt. His move from Barcelona to PSG was meant to push the Parisians to greater heights, but his on-field exploits have been overshadowed by controversy and the player's lifestyle.

He only recently settled an ongoing dispute with his former employers, something that has hung over him for three years. He's already focusing on his career after the game too, which seems odd for a 29-year-old. He's a huge poker fan, something another Brazilian Olympic Gold medallist confirmed in 2016. "He's very famous, and it's a way for him to be amongst people and just play a game, and for it to be okay," said Fatima Moreira de Melo, who won an Olympic hockey gold and later went pro on the poker circuit. Her experiences have influenced Neymar, who enjoys what 


 term as the 'Cadillac of Poker', Texas Hold 'em. He's suggested he will turn pro once his career is over, and he's already taken part in the World Series of Poker, sitting around a high stakes Texas Hold 'em table.

That's all well and good, but he does spend a lot of time concentrating on things outside of the game rather than on the pitch. He's even been hit with a so-called curse of his sister's birthday, managing to miss every game that falls on or around March 11. 


 reveal injuries and bookings have always allowed him to travel to see his beloved younger sister, and whilst many joke about the curse, it is perhaps reflective of his career that the major talking point once again can be found outside of the game.

Neymar may well take up poker after his playing career ends, he may well be able to make his sister's birthday every season too, but he won't be talking about his Olympic exploits in 2021, leaving that honor to Richarlison. The biggest question yet to be answered is this: when his career ends, will it be the things he achieved on the pitch that gets talked about or the things he did off it?

source: SportMob

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