Barcelona news

Neymar ready to face former club

August 1, 2013
By ESPN Staff

Barcelona geared up for Friday's Joan Gamper Trophy match versus Santos by hosting a media conference at Camp Nou for the former Santos-turned-Barcelona star, forward Neymar.

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“I’ll be playing against my former teammates for whom I have a lot of love, but I’ll defend Barca with all my pride,” Neymar, who arrived this summer on a five-year deal, told an enormous media contingent via a translator by his side. “I play all my matches with the same desire and for me, a friendly like the one tomorrow is the same as a Champions League final.”

The 21-year-old said little more than he has in the past about how he feels he will get along at his new club. Earlier this week, he made his European debut as Barca played Poland’s Lechia Gdansk to a 2-2 draw. Neymar entered the game at the 79th minute and did not score, but won four free kicks as the Lechia defence struggled to adjust to his play.

“I’m used to the very physical style of play,” Neymar said, adding that in Brazil the league is rougher and he received more fouls there.

Asked again about how he will get along with Argentine striker Lionel Messi, Neymar called their relationship “marvelous” and said they speak daily.

“He is the best player in the world, I have a lot of respect for him and I am here to help him,” Neymar said, adding that he has not yet spoken with new team coach Gerardo Martino about where he will play.

Fans expecting to see how the two would line up side by side vs. Lechia Gdansk were disappointed after Messi exited two minutes before Neymar came on. Media speculated that the two could debut together Friday.

Following his tonsil surgery this summer, Neymar said he lost some weight but added that he is getting fitter each day. Neymar was tapped Wednesday by Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari as part of the same Confederations Cup-winning squad for Brazil’s friendly vs. Switzerland later this month.

Scolari selected 20 players for the match in Basel on Aug. 14, with 19 of them drawn from the Cup squad. Paris Saint-Germain left back Maxwell is the only newcomer.

The starting 11 from the victory against Spain in the final of the World Cup warm-up tournament in June were summoned, including strikers Neymar and Fred, midfielder Oscar and defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz.

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