Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has rubbished rumours linking the English champions with a swap deal for Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar.

French outlet Le Parisien reported that PSG had offered Neymar to City as part of a swap deal earlier in the off-season that would have seen Bernardo Silva go the other way.

According to the report City declined the proposal but Guardiola clarified the story was not accurate.

"I am so sorry for Le Parisien, but it is not true," Guardiola told reporters in Houston ahead of their pre-season game against Club America on Wednesday.

"I am sorry for them because the information they have received is false.

"Neymar is an incredible player and by my information, he is a nice guy. Let him express himself at Paris.

"Manchester City bought 150 players every summer, and it is not true. I am sorry for Neymar, of course."

It has been reported this off-season that PSG have put 30-year-old Neymar on the market, while Guardiola reiterated his belief that Bernardo would stay at City last month amid links with Barcelona.

City have landed several key players this off-season, with new signings Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and Stefan Ortega Moreno, while Bernardo has established himself a pivotal player in City's midfield.

The English champions won the race to land 21-year-old Norwegian forward Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, with expectations high for his impact at a club which appeared to lack an out-and-out striker last term.

"We cannot put too much pressure on these players," Guardiola said.

"We need to get them houses, apartments in Manchester, and in the sessions what we want them to do will increase.

"The first impressions of Julian, Kalvin, Erling, and Stefan were really good – they seem like good people.

"Having good vibes in the locker room is more important than tactics."

Guardiola also did not close the door on further signings, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko – who is set to join Arsenal – all departing.

"We will see about signing, [Manchester City director of football] Txiki [Begiristain] and his department are scouting, he’ll know what is best for the team," he said.

Amid growing speculation in recent months, Christophe Galtier and Luis Campos' arrivals at Paris Saint-Germain this off-season could mean Neymar's departure.

The Brazilian joined PSG in 2017 for what remains a world-record €222 million fee from Barcelona, but there has been no European silverware to complement nine Ligue 1 titles over the past decade.

Lionel Messi linked up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last term but the team's compatibility came under examination in their dramatic Champions League exit, despite winning Ligue 1 comfortably.

TOP STORY – PSG PROPOSED NEYMAR SWAP WITH MAN CITY

PSG proposed an exchange with Manchester City which would have seen Neymar and Bernardo Silva swap clubs earlier this off-season, Le Parisien claims.

The report alleges that the English champions declined the deal, as they are unwilling to let the Portuguese midfielder go.

Relations between Neymar, who is contracted until 2017, and PSG have been slightly testy recently.

Bernardo was linked with a switch to Barcelona earlier in the off-season, having reportedly been eager to leave the club last year.

 

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are concerned that target Presnel Kimpembe will decline their approach, the Standard claims. The Blues are in talks with PSG over a £50m deal for Kimpembe.

– The Sun reports that Chelsea have also entered the race to sign Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona, amid the latter's talks with Manchester United.

– Calciomercato claims that Tottenham have shown an interest in Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo although they will need to offload players to afford him.

– Spurs are not interested in signing Jesse Lingard according to Fabrizio Romano, meanwhile. Lingard, who left Manchester United recently at the conclusion of his contract, is hoping to decide on his future this week, with West Ham United believed to be his likely destination, while Nottingham Forest are also interested.

– Fabrizio Romano also claims that there is still no agreement between PSG and Inter on a deal for Martin Skriniar. Inter are not willing to sell the Slovakia international for PSG's last bid of €50m.

– Arsenal and Manchester City have agreed to a £32m deal for Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko, reports Sky Sports.

– Football Insider reports that Liverpool have contacted Ajax about signing their Brazil international winger Antony.

PSG head coach Christophe Galtier called Neymar a "great player" when questioned about his possible exit from the club, but admitted the size of his squad has to be reduced.

The Brazilian forward has been linked with a move away from the Parc des Princes, with apparent interest from a host of Europe's top clubs.

Neymar has been with PSG for five years, since the club made him the world's most expensive player with a fee that far exceeded €200million.

The former Santos man has won four Ligue 1 titles over his time in the French capital, but his inability to help the club win their first ever Champions League, and subsequent negative fan reaction, has led to rumours of discontent.

He was booed by fans in PSG's first home game after the collapse in the round of 16 Champions League second leg against Real Madrid, where they let a 2-0 lead slip to crash out 3-2 on aggregate after Karim Benzema's hat-trick at the Santiago Bernabeu.

When asked about a possible Neymar departure, Galtier told reporters: "A team is always stronger with great players, and Neymar is one.

"I know where Neymar can be comfortable, whether it's a little higher off the hook or in front of two midfielders.

"I will adapt to the squad I have. We have to reduce it, but I want it to be as good as possible.

"What I want, by having an obviously very strong eleven, is that this eleven is at least as strong with the five possible changes."

Galtier also commented on Kylian Mbappe, who himself looked to be on the move away from Paris until signing a new three-year contract in May.

The former Nice coach added: "We are not going to make him bear all the responsibility, he is a 23-year-old boy who has a certain mastery.

"He knows what people are going to expect from him but there are also other players around.

"Kylian knows what he wants, knows where he wants to go, what he wants to do with his career, so he has that pressure."

Brazil international Raphinha hopes to follow fellow Selecao stars Ronaldinho and Neymar in enshrining his name into Barcelona history after agreeing his long-awaited transfer this week.

The Blaugrana confirmed an agreement had finally been struck with Leeds United for the winger, pending a medical, to complete one of the window's more protracted sagas, in a deal reportedly worth up to €67million (£56.57m).

Raphinha had preferred a move to Camp Nou since before the transfer window opened, but higher bids from Premier League clubs, including Chelsea, stalled a switch, particularly with Barcelona's financial struggles.

Barca have played host to some of the greatest names in Brazilian football over the years, including World Cup winner Ronaldinho, and Neymar, who became the most-expensive player in history when he left for Paris Saint-Germain.

Both stars left an indelible mark upon the fabric of the club, and now Raphinha is determined to follow in their footsteps.

"I saw Ronaldinho come here and achieve so much and after that Neymar as well," he told Barca TV.

"For me as a Brazilian to come here, it’s an honour. I hope to reach the same objectives that those two players achieved.

"This is a dream come true for me, not just for me also my friends and family.

"They’ve seen me playing since I was a kid. They knew this was a dream of mine to come here. All I can do now is give my best and try to help Barca be what it’s always been."

Originally arriving at Leeds from Rennes following the former's promotion to the Premier League, Raphinha became a standout performer for Marcelo Bielsa, and then Jesse Marsch, over his two seasons at Elland Road.

With 17 goals in 67 appearances for Leeds, the Brazilian says fans can expect him to showcase that drive at Camp Nou too.

"What I can say about myself is that I'm very excited to win," he added. "I like to win, any time I lose it's very difficult to accept.

"So, you can expect a player who will always be fighting, always try to win, in training sessions as well. I will fight to become a better player."

With his departure from Manchester United on the horizon, Paul Pogba had been free to discuss his future with other clubs since January.

Failing to ever really match his then world-record price tag with performances on the pitch, the World Cup winner's next destination always seemed limited to a few options.

Reports suggest a return to Serie A and Juventus is imminent.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA SET FOR FOUR-YEAR DEAL AT JUVENTUS

Paul Pogba is expected to complete medical in Turin this weekend to open the path for a free transfer to Juventus, according to Sky Sports.

Leaving Manchester United at the end of June upon the expiry of his contract, the move to Juve would see him return to the club where he spent four years and established his reputation.

Upon completion of his medical, the 29-year-old is reportedly set to sign a four-year deal with the club.

This comes after Pogba turned down what was reported to be a 3.5 per cent increase on his wages at Manchester United.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have reached a verbal agreement with Juve's Matthijs de Ligt amid interest from Chelsea, according to Sport1.

- Tottenham are keen on signing Villarreal's Pau Torres despite the impending arrival of Clement Lenglet, the Mirror is reporting.

- Newcastle United are willing to meet Bayer Leverkusen's asking price for Moussa Diaby, per the Telegraph.

- New Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier hopes Neymar can stay at the club amid speculation over his future, The Sun is reporting.

Neymar has been assured he has a big part to play at Paris Saint-Germain under Christophe Galtier, but the new coach warned there will be action taken against any dissenters.

There has been recent speculation about Neymar's future at PSG, with the French club reportedly open to selling him should an acceptable bid come along.

Chelsea have been linked with a possible move for the Brazilian, who cost the French giants a world-record sum when he arrived in 2017 from Barcelona.

Galtier was confirmed as the new head coach at Parc des Princes on Tuesday, taking over from Mauricio Pochettino.

It was inevitable Galtier would be asked about his plans for Neymar, given the scrutiny the 30-year-old has been coming under, and the former Nice and Lille boss made it clear he can be important in the club's future.

"Which coach wouldn't want to have a player like him in his team?" Galtier said "I have a very precise idea of ​​what I will expect from Neymar.

"I will meet him, listen to him, but I want him to stay. For us, it's always better to have a player of such class with us."

Neymar made 22 Ligue 1 appearances last season, scoring 13 goals and adding six assists. It was the most games he has managed in a 38-game league campaign since joining PSG.

Galtier said he wanted his squad to consist of players "that want to win, that want success and want to enjoy football".

"I am not going to perform a revolution in the dressing room," he said. "I am here to listen and I know I have the support of everyone, from the board, to make decisions, and if any player, whoever it is, does not buy into the project there will be action taken."

Galtier, a surprise Ligue 1 champion with Lille in 2020-21, is taking a step up by joining a team where the expectation is that domestic dominance will be secured.

PSG desperately want to add a Champions League title, too, and a failure in Europe would likely see Galtier come under pressure.

He has the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marquinhos and Marco Verratti at his disposal in a star-packed squad.

Sergio Ramos, the veteran former Real Madrid captain, will also be hoping to be more heavily involved during his second season at PSG after an injury-disrupted first campaign.

Galtier, who said he will take a "different approach" to his usual football style owing to the strengths of his squad, insists there must be unity within the group.

"It is a privilege to have a squad with world-class players," he said. "Firstly, it is about speaking to them, and there won't be any compromises in terms of our strength as a group and the targets that we have set out. We have to have a common project without any compromises."

Brazil star Neymar is reportedly interested in a move to the Premier League after being informed Paris Saint-Germain will not stand in his way if he wishes to depart.

ESPN is reporting that Neymar's agent has been in touch with Chelsea to gauge their interest in bringing in the 30-year-old, who scored 13 goals and added six assists in 22 Ligue 1 contests this past season.

While Neymar's talent is not in question, his health may be, having missed over two months of this campaign after suffering an ankle injury, and that is coming off a 2020-21 season where he only played 18 league games due to ankle and adductor injuries.


TOP STORY – NEYMAR WEIGHS UP CHELSEA MOVE AS PSG GIVE GREEN LIGHT

ESPN's report mentions that Neymar's agent, Pini Zahavi, believes there are only "two or three teams" that would be able to meet his wage demands, and it is thought that Chelsea are hoping to make a splash under the new ownership of Todd Boehly.

Spanish publication Sport claims Neymar activated a clause in his PSG contract as soon as he possibly could on July 1 to add one extra year to his deal – tying him to the French giants until 2027 – but that does not rule out a move happening.

Chelsea's Brazilian centre-back and Neymar's former PSG team-mate Thiago Silva has been vocal about his desire to recruit the superstar forward, but his salary of €43million could stand in the way if the Stamford Bridge club decide they would rather use this transfer period's resources in defence.


ROUND-UP

– The Star is reporting that Manchester United are closing in on a deal with Christian Eriksen as his contract with Brentford has expired and he is available on a free transfer.

– Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is expected to leave on a free transfer, with Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich the three teams listed by Marca as his potential landing spots.

Everton are hoping to replace Richarlison with Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis after their Brazilian forward departed for Tottenham this week.

– According to The Sun, Fulham are finalising a £17million move for 26-year-old Sporting defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha.

– ESPN is reporting Fulham have offered £10m for Manchester United's Andreas Pereira as the 26-year-old returns from his loan stint with Flamengo.

Joelinton has urged Newcastle United coach Eddie Howe to get on the phone to Neymar and sign the Paris Saint-Germain superstar.

With Kylian Mbappe now the main man at PSG, having renewed his contract in France, Neymar has been linked with a move away from the club.

And Newcastle, with the world's richest football club owners in Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, are in theory one of very few potential suitors who could afford the sport's most expensive player.

The Magpies already have two Brazilians, too, in Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes.

After Thiago Silva told Globo that Neymar "has to go to Chelsea", Joelinton, speaking to Brazilian podcast Cast FC, said: "We can get him a spot. Sure, in any team in the world.

"If he comes, it will be... I can't explain it. The man is an idol. He's huge in world football.

"So, the invitation is done: Ney, if you are listening to this, you can come. I'll run to you all the time. [The ball] will come easy."

Newcastle already have a tricky winger in Allan Saint-Maximin, but Joelinton did not hesitate in offering away his team-mate's number 10 shirt.

"His quality, the visibility... if we have the chance, I hope," the forward-turned-midfielder said. "Coach, call him. The number 10 shirt is there waiting for him.

"I'll send a message to Bruno. Bruno has his contact; he can send a message inviting Ney to play there."

June 30, 2002, Yokohama. Ronaldo pounces on Rivaldo's dummy to side-foot past Germany's Oliver Kahn, becoming just the ninth man to score twice in a World Cup final and making Brazil champions of the world.

That moment, the pinnacle of the legendary forward's career, remains unmatched to this day for the Selecao, with Brazil failing to add to their five World Cup crowns in the subsequent two decades.

Should Brazil fall short of glory in Qatar later this year, that drought will stretch to at least 24 years, matching their longest wait for World Cup glory since their maiden title in 1958 (also between 1970 and 1994).

For a country whose hopes have been entrusted to such footballing icons as Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar in subsequent years, such a drought seems inexplicable, with three quarter-final exits and one historic semi-final humiliation the sum of their efforts since 2002. 

Exactly 20 years on from Brazil's triumph in Japan and South Korea, Stats Perform looks back on that momentous success, questions why it is yet to be repeated, and asks whether Tite's class of 2022 are equipped to bring glory to one of the world's most football-mad nations.

2002: Irresistible Ronaldo fires Selecao to glory in Japan and South Korea

It is no exaggeration to say Brazil's last World Cup win was one of the most impressive triumphs in the competition's history.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's men went from strength to strength after requiring a late Rivaldo penalty to edge a tense opener against eventual third-placed finishers Turkey, winning all seven of their games by an aggregate score of 18-4.

The class of 2002 thus hold the record for the most games won by a nation at a single World Cup, with Ronaldo – coming off an injury-blighted four seasons at Inter in which he managed just 36 Serie A appearances – the star of the show.

Partnering Rivaldo and supplied by Paris Saint-Germain's breakout star Ronaldinho, O Fenomeno netted eight goals across the tournament, the joint-most of any Brazilian at a single World Cup and the highest tally of anyone since West Germany's Gerd Muller struck 10 times in 1970.

 

Ronaldo's 19 shots on target in the tournament has not been matched in any subsequent World Cup, while his total of 34 attempts was more than five different nations managed. 

Quarter-final opponents England, vanquished when Ronaldinho audaciously (perhaps fortuitously) lobbed David Seaman from long-range, were the only side to keep Ronaldo out as he took the competition by storm.

A 25-year-old Ronaldo's final double against Germany represented his 44th and 45th international goals in just his 64th Brazil appearance. He managed just 17 further strikes in the famous yellow shirt during his career.

There was nothing in the 2002 squad's make-up to suggest a long wait for further tournament success was imminent: The experienced Cafu (31 in 2002) and Roberto Carlos (29) were still around in 2006, while future Ballon d'Or winners Ronaldinho (22) and Kaka (20) had their whole careers ahead of them.

How, then, did one of the greatest sides in modern international history contrive to fall so far short in subsequent World Cups?

 

2006-2010: Zidane and Sneijder sparkle as drab Brazil fall short

Brazil looked set for another shot at glory in Germany in 2006. Ronaldinho was crowned the world's best player in 2005; Kaka was to follow in his footsteps in 2007; and Ronaldo had hit a century of goals in his first four seasons with Real Madrid.

Brazil conceded just once in group-stage clashes with Croatia, Australia and Japan before crushing Ghana 3-0 in the last 16, but with Carlos Alberto Parreira cramming his three attacking stars into a rigid 4-4-2 shape, it was France who more closely resembled the Brazil sides of old in the last eight. 

Zinedine Zidane's performance in Frankfurt stands as one of the finest in the competition's history, as he tormented the defending champions' flat midfield before assisting Thierry Henry's winner.

It was the first of two masterful midfield displays to end the World Cup hopes of drab Brazil teams, with Wesley Sneijder assuming Zidane's role as the Netherlands vanquished Dunga's men in South Africa in 2010.

Progressing from the group stages has not been an issue for Brazil. Astonishingly, they are unbeaten in their last 15 group games, last suffering a first-stage defeat against Norway in 1998.

A lack of tactical nous against the world's best, however, has been a legitimate charge, and an understandable one given the identities of some of their head coaches.

Parreira's one Brazilian top-flight title was won way back in 1984, while Dunga's only club-level experience remains, to this day, a dire 2013 campaign with Internacional.

In that context, the return of Scolari, the emergence of Neymar and a home World Cup lifted expectations to monumental levels by 2014, when Brazilian dreams were to be shattered in the most incredible manner imaginable.

2014-2018: Home humiliation and Neymar reliance see Brazilian woes continue

The 2014 World Cup was billed as a festival of football, lit up by jubilant Brazilian crowds and thrilling football – the 171 goals scored across the tournament are the joint-most on record, alongside 1998.

Sadly for Brazil, eventual winners Germany provided 18 of those, with seven coming in a scarcely believable semi-final rout at the Mineirao.

Having gone 5-0 down within 29 minutes in the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva, Scolari's men collapsed to arguably the greatest humiliation in World Cup history and, as almost goes without saying, the heaviest semi-final defeat the tournament has ever seen.

Only when Yugoslavia faced Zaire in 1974 had a side previously been 5-0 up after 29 minutes at a World Cup, but for all the excitement building around the host nation, Brazil's class of 2014 always appeared flawed.

An over-reliance on Neymar – cruelly sidelined by a dreadful quarter-final challenge from Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga – was clear in both 2014 and 2018, when Brazil fell to a 2-1 defeat to a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium in Russia.

 

Across those two tournaments, Neymar's six goals and two assists saw him directly involved in 42 per cent of Brazil's goals.

Fluminense striker Fred, ridiculed by many for his performances in 2014, wasn't exactly up to the task of replacing his goal threat, while Gabriel Jesus failed to find the net despite starting every match under Tite in 2018.

Indeed, coming into the 2018 tournament, Neymar – with 55 goals in 85 caps, was the only player in the Brazil squad to have scored more than 12 international goals.

Having achieved the rare feat of holding onto his job after leading Brazil at a World Cup, Tite will hope the emergence of several other stars lessens the burden on his number 10 this time around.

The road to Qatar: Can the class of 2022 end World Cup drought? 

Assuming he remains in charge when they face Serbia on November 24, Tite will become the first coach to lead Brazil at back-to-back World Cups since Tele Santana in 1982 and 1986.

While neither of Santana's campaigns ended in glory, the current boss – a Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup winner – will hope his six years moulding the side will prove invaluable in Qatar.

Brazil have already ended one mini trophy drought under his watch, winning a first Copa America title in 12 years on home soil in 2019 before finishing as runners-up to Argentina two years later.

Most impressively, Brazil triumphed without the injured Neymar in 2019 as Everton Soares top-scored, and the form of a series of Selecao stars has given Tite enviable squad depth.

In Allison and Ederson, he can choose between arguably the top two goalkeepers in the Premier League, while Fabinho was crucial as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool fell narrowly short of a historic quadruple last term.

Casemiro, who won his fifth Champions League title with Madrid in May, could partner him in a fearsome midfield duo, but most of the excitement is centred on his club team-mate Vinicius Junior, whose 22 goals and 16 assists for Los Blancos last term suggest he can be the man to dovetail with Neymar.

 

After landing an appealing group-stage draw alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon, the excitement around Brazil is building once more.

With the Selecao topping the FIFA World Rankings, having fairly recent a Copa America win under their belts and possessing some of European football's most-effective players, 2022 seems as good a time as any for Brazil to end 20 years of disappointment and bring 'o Jogo Bonito' to the world once more.

Thiago Silva has implored his Brazilian team-mate Neymar to join him at Chelsea if he decides to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

There has been recent speculation about Neymar's future at PSG, with the French club reportedly open to selling him should an acceptable bid come along.

Neymar's former agent Wagner Ribeiro said last week the 30-year-old wants to remain with PSG, to fulfil his dream of winning the Champions League there.

Chelsea's 37-year-old defender Thiago Silva, who has played alongside Neymar at international level and at PSG from 2017 to 2020, has urged to join him at Stamford Bridge.

"He has to go to Chelsea," Silva told Globo about Neymar who is contracted until 2025.

"If he is about to leave, then he must go there. If it happens, then the expectation is the best possible one.

"We don't even need to talk about Neymar's ability. Besides that, he is a super friend.

"I hope this happens instead of only being something on the news, but I don't know anything about it."

In recent days, Chelsea have been linked with another Brazilian, Leeds United's Raphinha, but are yet to spend in the transfer market this off-season.

Chelsea had a change of ownership completed in May with a group led by Todd Boehly replacing Roman Abramovich following a long association with the London club.

Neymar's former agent Wagner Ribiero believes the Brazilian is not about to leave Paris Saint-Germain as he is still dreaming of Champions League glory with the French champions.

The 30-year-old is contracted in Paris until 2025, but there have been rumours that PSG could look to offload him, having signed Lionel Messi in 2021 and recently renewing Kylian Mbappe's contract.

A return to Barcelona has long been muted for Neymar, with whom he won the Champions League with in 2014-15, while he has also previously spoken about his desire to play in the United States. 

However, when quizzed about Neymar's future, Ribiero made it clear his understanding that the former Santos starlet is not considering an exit and has his eyes firmly set on ending PSG's wait for Champions League glory.

"Neymar has a dream: to be champion of the Champions League with PSG," he told Goal.

"Despite all the rumours regarding a possible exit, he is very motivated and will not stop until he achieves it."

 

Asked whether Neymar likes the project at PSG, he added: "Of course. Every year that passes Nasser Al-Khelaifi (club president) improves the team in every way.

"They just finished the training centre, which will be one of the best. And now he wants to have the best French players at PSG."

Since Neymar joined PSG in 2017, the French giants have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in three of the five seasons – finishing runners-up in 2019-20 and falling at the semi-finals the following year.

During that period, Neymar has scored 20 Champions League goals and secured 13 assists – with the only player to have more assists in the same period being team-mate Mbappe.

Vinicius Junior announced his desire to stay at Real Madrid, claiming they are the most "united" since he arrived in 2018.

The 21-year-old Brazilian enjoyed a breakthrough year this past season, providing 17 goals and 13 assists in Real Madrid's LaLiga title triumph, before scoring in the final to claim the club's 14th Champions League.

He has two years left on his contract but is expected to extend until 2026, turning down reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

In anticipation of a contract renewal, Vinicius cited the atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu as a critical factor in his growth.

"I will continue in the biggest team in the world," he told Sport TV. "It's the most united team since I arrived. The celebrations were different this year. We all felt something special. 

"Younger people arrived with Rodrygo, [Eder] Militao, [Eduardo] Camavinga and me. Everyone likes each other and that's important.

"It's the best atmosphere in the world. Everybody wants to be there. The most experienced give us peace of mind and freedom to do what they want."

In the meantime, Vinicius has become a more regular figure for the Brazil national team, playing in seven of the Selecao's final 11 World Cup qualifiers and starting in five of them.

Despite his own burgeoning status, the 21-year-old revealed he will still be looking to defer to the talismanic Neymar later in the year in Qatar, as Brazil seek a sixth World Cup title.

"He is our best player," Vinicius said. "The rivals always focus more on him and he asks us to run into space because he has great quality to find us. He does everything for me, he is a great friend.

"The pressure is greater for him being older. He calls it responsibility. He also takes it away from us, from those who are arriving. Playing for the national team is a lot of pressure, but we're getting used to it."

Vinicius Junior has confirmed his intentions to stay with Real Madrid, declaring: "I will continue with the biggest team in the world".

The winger initially struggled to make his mark after arriving from Flamengo in 2018 for a reported €46million fee.

However, Vinicius enjoyed a breakthrough season in the 2021-22 term, scoring 22 goals in 52 games in all competitions, seven more than in 118 games for Los Blancos in his previous three campaigns (15).

The Brazil international also recorded the most goal involvements by LaLiga players born in 2000 or after across all competitions (38 – 22 goals and 16 assists).

Vinicius scored the winning goal in the Champions League final against Liverpool, but there were some suggestions he could be tempted by a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

He has quelled those Madrid fears by announcing his desire to stay in the Spanish capital, with the expectancy he will sign a new contract until June 2027.

"I will continue in the biggest team in the world," the Madrid star said on 'Bem, Amigos!' of SporTV.

"It's the most united team since I arrived. The celebrations were different this year. We all felt something special. 

"Younger people arrived with Rodrygo, [Eder] Militao, [Eduardo] Camavinga and me. Everyone likes each other and that's important.

"It's the best atmosphere in the world. Everybody wants to be there. The most experienced give us peace of mind and freedom to do what they want."

Vinicius will look to partner with Neymar for Brazil to deliver World Cup glory later this year.

The 21-year-old appears to play in a similar fashion to the PSG star, with Vinicius attempting 234 dribbles in the 2021-22 LaLiga – the most by a Madrid player in a single season since 2005-06.

Nevertheless, Vinicius still sees Neymar as the best player for Brazil as he learns to cope with the pressure of playing for the Selecao.

"He is our best player. The rivals always focus more on him and he asks us to run into space because he has a great quality to find us," he added. 

"He does everything for me, he is a great friend. The pressure is greater for him being older. He calls it responsibility. He also takes it away from us, from those who are arriving. 

"Playing for the national team is a lot of pressure, but we're getting used to it."

Brazil coach Tite declared "it's time to be champions" as the Selecao eye World Cup success in Qatar.

Tite's side coasted through South American World Cup qualifying, going unbeaten as they booked a place at this year's showpiece tournament.

Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002, their fifth triumph overall, and will first have to contend with Serbia on November 24 before clashes against Switzerland and Cameroon follow in Group G.

Argentina are another force in the battle for the trophy, with the Copa America champions undefeated in 33 games – the longest intact unbeaten run in international football.

Holders France will also prove stern competition, while England, Belgium, Spain and Germany are among the favourites for success.

But Tite insists it is time for Brazil, who have overtaken Belgium at the top of the world rankings, to deliver.

"I'm expectant but focused. We reached the World Cup; now it's time to reach the final and be champions. This is the truth," he told The Guardian. 

"At the last World Cup I was the manager because of other circumstances [Dunga was fired in 2016 and Tite took over].

"Now I have had the opportunity to do the full four-year cycle. Expectations are high but the focus is on work. The pressure we face is a problem: the responsibility, the pressure of the position, the demands.

"When I was a supporter, I wanted the team to be the best. It's what moves us. But mental health is important. I think about what [Nelson] Mandela said: 'Courage is the ability to face fear'. 

"In every decision he made, fear was present. When I read that, I saw that I am a normal citizen. I have my fears, my nightmares, my little goosebumps. Fear but not dread; fear and dread are different."

Vinicius Junior has come to the forefront for Real Madrid in the 2021-22 campaign, but Tite believes Neymar remains the main star for Brazil.

"Neymar is Neymar. He remains our biggest star. The difference now is that the glow is diluted by nearby stars that can also shine," he added.

"Neymar's greatness is that he understands this – about the growth of these kids. He encourages the boys to go up a level. Time and experience provide this maturity.

"Because of Neymar's greatness, there will always be great expectations. But now it's diluted. It's Neymar, but also Vinícius, Raphinha; Thiago [Silva] is at a high level again, Paqueta, Casemiro, Fabinho too."

Tite has come into criticism during his spell as Brazil boss, particularly after a quarter-final exit at the 2018 World Cup, but he believes the questioning of his methods is unfair.

"We need time to understand. Works are best seen when they are at a distance, finished. We have results," Tite said.

"What people are expecting? We beat the record [for the most points] in the qualifiers. We have the longest unbeaten streak, 12 games [under Tite in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup] and now 17 games without a loss [in the 2022 qualifiers]. That is 29 games."

Rodrygo has revealed that international team-mate Neymar wants him to inherit Brazil's famous number 10 shirt when the Paris Saint-Germain star retires from international football.

The Selecao are seeking to win a first World Cup title in 20 years in Qatar, where an impressive forward line is set to include Neymar, along with Real Madrid duo Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.

Neymar had already hinted that the 2022 tournament could be his last and appears to have relayed that message to his compatriots, with Rodrygo apparently in line to inherit the iconic number 10 shirt.

"Neymar said to me 'I'm already leaving the national team and the 10 is yours'," he told Podpah.

"I didn't even know what to say to him. I was embarrassed, I giggled and didn't even know what to say properly.

"I told him that he must play some more, that I didn't want [him] to [do so] now. And then he laughed."

Neymar is the latest in a long line of greats to grace the famous shirt for Brazil, following the likes of Zico, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Pele – while he sits just three goals shy of the latter's goalscoring record for his national team.

Expectations are high for Rodrygo, who has been capped five times, and the 21-year-old revealed that Zinedine Zidane has also touted him to become the best player in the world.

"Zidane said that one day I would be the best in the world," he added.

"Carlo Ancelotti also spoke about me. I try to train and evolve every day to get there. I was very happy. 

"I have this dream and I know that if I dedicate myself every day, I can get there."

Brazil open their World Cup campaign on November 24 against Serbia, with Switzerland and Cameroon also in Group G.

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