Dani Alves has defended Neymar amid growing criticism of the Paris Saint-Germain forward and insisted his former side need to build their team around the Brazil star.
PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed on Monday that Neymar wants to leave the French capital, with former club Barcelona considered the favourites to sign him.
The 27-year-old failed to turn up for the first day of pre-season training and the French champions signalled they will take “appropriate action”, although the player’s father insists the club knew he would not return until next week due to commitments in Brazil.
But Alves, who played alongside Neymar at Barca and then PSG for two seasons before departing the club last month, believes his compatriot is given a hard time of things.
“Sometimes I feel there’s this sensibility over Neymar that everything he does should be put under scrutiny,” he told SporTV’s Bem Amigos.
“I disagree with a lot of the criticism about him because some of it targets his off-pitch doings and not his football, where he’s always provided results
“As a friend, my job is ensuring Neymar understands that he must find ways to get the most out of his gift for football.”
Brazil won their first Copa America in 12 years in the absence of Neymar, who missed out on the tournament due to an injury suffered in a friendly against Qatar last month.
But Alves, who linked up with Lionel Messi at Barca for eight years before joining PSG in 2017, rebuffed suggestions that Neymar is not a team player.
“If a team has Messi, it must play for Messi, as it is with [Cristiano] Ronaldo,” he said. “Neymar is no different – he’s on another level and, the more the team dedicates itself to him, he’ll continue to give an answer on the pitch.
“I don’t think these kinds of players do things that are not for the sake of the team.
“I realised this when I played with Messi: if he’s on my side, why should I do other than trying to get the ball to him? I know how decisive he can be; he must have the ball. And Neymar is that kind of player.”