Paqueta defends Neymar after PSG jeers

Brazil’s Lucas Paqueta has dfended his teammate Neymar (AFP/CARL DE SOUZA) (CARL DE SOUZA)

Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta defended fellow Brazilian Neymar Tuesday after the star striker came in for boos and jeers over Paris Saint-Germain’s humiliating exit from the Champions League.

“Neymar is above all a great person, a great professional, with incredible talent. He’s without a doubt the best player on the Brazilian national team,” Paqueta, 24, told a news conference at the training center where Brazil are preparing for the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“It’s a privilege to have him with us. When I’ve got Neymar at my side, I feel stronger, and my teammates too.”

Neymar and fellow PSG superstar Lionel Messi have been heckled by fans in Paris since the club crashed out of the Champions League on March 9 in an embarrassing last-16 defeat to Real Madrid.

Neymar, 30, is now looking to turn a page as he returns to the national team after missing the last round of World Cup qualifiers due to an ankle injury.

“PSG were eliminated, so the press and fans are going to criticize him for that. But he’s been recovering from injury. He’s getting stronger by the day, and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job helping the Selecao,” said Paqueta, a recent arrival on the national team who has described Neymar as a mentor.

Brazil, who qualified for Qatar in November, will face Chile Thursday and Bolivia next Tuesday in the final round of qualifiers.

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