The Belgian ranks his ex-team-mate alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as one of the most charismatic players in the game
Thomas Meunier has jumped to the defence of divisive Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, insisting that the Brazilian warrants his huge salary.
Neymar is widely regarded as one of the most talented players of his generation, having enjoyed unprecedented success at Barcelona before being snapped up for a world-record €222 million (£192m/$272m) fee by PSG in 2017.
The 28-year-old has added more silverware to his glittering CV at Parc des Princes, but has also faced regular criticism for his perceived lack of commitment and penchant for unnecessary theatrics, with it suggested that he has failed to live up to his full potential.
What’s been said?
Neymar remains one of the best-paid players in the game despite his detractors and Meunier believes he is fully deserving of that status, having seen how hard he works on his game at PSG up close.
The Borussia Dortmund defender, who played with Neymar in Paris for three years before moving to Westfalenstadion in 2020, told Goal and Spox when asked to address the special treatment his former team-mate receives: “That just comes with his strength as a player.
“The best player gets the highest salary and is therefore in such a strong position that he can determine a lot or at least have an influential say in a lot.
“Neymar has done a lot to be better than the others and has therefore earned this privilege.
“Whether it’s him, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they are all professional, powerful and heard because they are great players with charisma and have done a lot of good for football.
“I think they have to be listened to because what they say will always be in the interest of the whole.”
Meunier added on Neymar’s personal qualities: “He likes to invite his team-mates to parties or to restaurants. Neymar is a simple guy in his private life. He does not dive in the restaurant either!
“He’s like a lot of Brazilians, always smiling, making jokes and liking to socialise. It’s easy to integrate him into a group. Also [Edinson] Cavani or Thiago Silva, they are all normal people.”
Neymar’s record at PSG
Neymar has racked up 116 appearances for PSG during his first four seasons at Parc des Princes, recording 87 goals and 52 assists along the way.
The former Barca talisman has helped the French outfit win 10 trophies to date, including three Ligue 1 titles, while also inspiring them to their first Champions League final in 2019-20.
However, persistent struggles for fitness have prevented Neymar from fully justifying his heft price tag and he missed another 19 games due to injury in PSG’s latest season – which ended with Lille dethroning them at the top of the league.