Brazil coach Tite on Sunday said he was surprised how well Neymar performed on his return from a three-month injury layoff in a 2-0 pre-World Cup friendly win over Croatia, but said the forward required patience.
Neymar came on at Anfield as a second-half substitute and made a swift impression with a superbly taken goal in the 69th minute as the five-time world champions warmed up for this month’s tournament in Russia.
The most expensive player in the world has been sidelined since Feb. 25, when he fractured a metatarsal and sprained his ankle playing for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 match against Olympique de Marseille.
“He came back better than I expected. I expected much less, because it is a process,” Tite told reporters. “He has to go through stages. He is going to have ups and downs. By the third, fourth or fifth game then he will be back to his level.”
Wearing the No. 10 shirt made famous by Pele, Neymar’s popularity soared after he led Brazil to their first Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2014.
The forward’s ability to create chances for himself and open up defenses adds some unpredictability to the Brazil attack and after a goalless first half on Sunday they looked more dangerous with the former Barcelona player on the pitch.
Tite said there was no doubt that Neymar gives Brazil something extra, but said that needed to be kept in perspective.
“He is a player that is different, but he can’t be given all the responsibility to decide the game, that’s not humane, he is a key part, but not everything,” Tite said, declining to comment if the 26-year-old would start in the next friendly against Austria in Vienna on Sunday.
Neymar became the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona for 222 million euros (US$264 million) in August last year and he is expected to start in the opening Group E game against Switzerland on June 17.
Tite also had praise for Manchester City’s Danilo, who played at rightback with Real Madrid’s Marcelo operating as a leftback.
“Danilo played very well today, his defensive work was close to perfection. He doesn’t construct like Marcelo because no one constructs like Marcelo, but he was very good,” Tite said.
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