Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp defended Neymar’s play-acting at the World Cup and believes it will be impossible to completely snuff out the Brazilian’s threat when Paris Saint-Germain visit Anfield in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Klopp insisted Neymar wasn’t fully fit in Russia after breaking a bone in his foot in February that forced him to miss the rest of the club season with the French giants before the World Cup.
However, the world’s most expensive player earned few plaudits for his performances and became a figure of fun for his constant feigning of injury as Brazil crashed out at the quarter-finals to Belgium.
“When I saw a few games at the World Cup and I know people are talking about that and it looked like he made a bit more of situations. But it’s a normal reaction because players are going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself. I understand that,” said Klopp on Monday.
“I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid his quality 100 percent. He’s a fantastic footballer, outstanding.”
“He was not fit at the World Cup and he tried to take the responsibility for his country. Belgium played an outstanding game against Brazil, but if Neymar is fit, Brazil wins it. That’s how it is.
“He was injured and so he had to save himself a bit. He’s not a person who wants to act because if you are like that you cannot play football.
“He got rested at the weekend so he will be 100 percent fresh, he’s not injured any more. We will see the full package Neymar.”
Despite splashing over €400 million on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG failed to progress beyond the last 16 in their quest to win a first ever Champions League.
But Klopp, who led Liverpool to the final in May, believes marrying a richly talented squad with new coach Thomas Tuchel makes the French giants an even bigger threat to win the competition this season.
“The players they have, the manager they have, they all brought it together to go as far as possible in the Champions League,” he added.
“He is an outstanding coach. I really thought it was a smart decision of PSG to sign Tuchel,” said Klopp.
“For this kind of team with unbelievable individual quality, you still need a manager who can teach or educate them in playing together and they brought in one of the best I know. That makes them quite a big challenge for us.”
However, in contrast to the five-time winners’ storied history in the competition, PSG have never in their history even made the final of the European Cup.
And Tuchel believes they can only still be considered challengers to Europe’s elite rather than one of the favourites for the competition.
“Sometimes you need a special victory to gain special confidence to go far in a competition. In sport, if you want to go all the way, sometimes you have to have the experience that you can do something exceptional,” he said of the prospect of winning at fortress Anfield.
“This makes the challenge even greater. Liverpool have won five Champions Leagues.
“This club has great experience, particularly in this stadium. We are working towards that but it is no big deal.
“We are still a challenger in the Champions League, not yet a favorite.”