Brazilian star Neymar has insisted he won’t be bullied into curbing his repertoire of skills after a host of Athletic Bilbao players reacted angrily to his show-boating towards the end of Barcelona’s 3-1 Copa del Rey final win on Saturday.
Neymar flicked the ball over Unai Bustinza with both feet with two minutes to go and Barca well on their way to sealing a 27th Copa del Rey to go with the La Liga title they won two weeks ago.
Bilbao’s outraged players immediately surrounded the 22-year-old with Barca’s veteran captain Xavi Hernandez having to lead his teammate away from the fracas.
“They can be angry, but it is my way of playing and I have done so for years. Just because others get angry doesn’t mean I am going to change my style of play,” said Neymar.
However, Barca boss Luis Enrique had strong words for his star, who had scored his side’s second goal of the evening either side of Lionel Messi’s stunning opener and a second from the Argentine.
“In Spain this is looked on very badly. If I was an Athletic player I would have reacted the same, or even worse,” said Enrique.
“In Brazil this is normal, so we have to understand the context. He didn’t do it to humiliate his opponent, it is difficult to explain it when someone is losing but we will try to control it with time.”
Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde also claimed Neymar, who is coming towards the end of his second season with the Catalan giants, needs to learn that such gestures will not be tolerated in Spain.
“It is not even looked upon well by his own fans,” he said.
“When the game is won we are very well aware to maintain certain respect for the opponent. There are things that he will learn with time.”
The incident took the shine off another brilliant display for Barca, and in particular Messi, that leaves them just one game away from sealing a treble.
Enrique’s men face Juventus in the Champions League final next Saturday and will be strong favourites with the four-time World Player of the Year in such form.
Messi beat four Athletic players before firing in at the near post to open the scoring before taking his tally for the campaign to 58 in the second-half.
“It is difficult to get used to seeing things like that, but he does things in training that are even more incredible,” added Enrique.
“When he is surrounded by teammates of such great quality and with a common goal it is a joy to watch.”
And Athletic captain Andoni Iraola believes Neymar could also learn from the attitude shown by Messi.
“For me it didn’t seem elegant or sporting at all,” said the 32-year-old, who was playing his final game for the Basques after more than 500 appearances.
“He has examples in his own team that he should pay attention to because he has much to learn from them.” – Agence France-Presse