Neymar made a decision of his own accord not to attend Pele’s funeral in Brazil, focusing on his return to club action with Paris Saint-Germain.
The Selecao and Santos legend passed away at the very end of 2022 and tributes have flooded in from across the world for him.
Some Brazilian icons attended Pele’s wake at Santos’ stadium in Vila Belmiro, but there was widespread criticism for the likes of Neymar, Ronaldo and Kaka not showing up in person.
Former Brazil midfielder Jose Ferreira Neto commented: “Pele is a citizen of the world, at the same level as Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, but Brazilians don’t know how to recognise that. If they were World Cup winners and didn’t come to see Pele, what can I say to them? At the very least it shows a lack of respect.”
Le Parisien report that PSG did not necessarily ban Neymar from travelling back to Brazil, with Neymar’s father revealing that the 30-year-old asked him to attend on his behalf.
“Today we are here to support the family, we have lost a lot. He inspired so many people and the sport. He has inspired all generations, he has always been a reference,” Neymar Sr said.
“That’s why my son asked me to be here instead. No, Neymar is not coming. We know what it is to lose someone and we have not only lost an athlete, we have lost a citizen, the person Pele, Edson Arantes. It makes us sad.”
Neymar took to social media to explain his absence in a short video, stating: “I will spend the end of the year here, training to pursue my goals at PSG, the Champions League and the French championship. In any case, we will pursue them all!
“And to all of you who have followed everything that happened in my 2022, which is coming to an end, I hope you can achieve your goals and dreams, always keeping the faith! Happy New Year 2023 to all of you. May God bless you and protect you. A huge kiss!”