AP Interview: Kaka urges Neymar to stay at PSG, lead CL push

ROB HARRIS (AP Global Soccer Writer)
The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- From lifting the World Cup to being named the world's best player, Kaka ascended the highs Neymar is still chasing.

So after more tumult in Neymar's career, Kaka has some advice for his fellow Brazilian:

- Stay at Paris Saint-Germain to lead the pursuit of Champions League glory, and the world player of the year accolades will follow.

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- Keep on maturing and maybe the forward can win a World Cup to avoid being viewed as a failure for Brazil.

''Everybody wants to give some advice or an opinion about his life,'' Kaka said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''He's just a 27-year-old guy, a lot of people of the same age make mistakes and improve with that.''

But Kaka's opinions and advice could be worth listening to, even for Neymar.

After all, Kaka won the game's top individual honors in 2007 when he was named FIFA world player of the year and collected the Ballon d'Or after winning the Champions League with AC Milan.

Neymar, the world's most expensive player, is reeling from being jeered on his return to the PSG side last weekend after sitting out the opening four league games of the season as he pushed for a move back to Barcelona during the summer transfer window. He won't play in the Champions League until the third group-stage game because of a suspension.

''For him I think it's good to stay there in PSG for now,'' Kaka said at the FIFA20 video game launch. ''I think it's good for him, for the club. I think PSG is always trying to build a great team to win a Champions League, so he can be the leader for this project and in my opinion, it's good. It will be a great year for him.''

When the FIFA player awards are handed out on Monday, though, Neymar will be far from the Milan ceremony. He has never finished higher than third in the vote for the Ballon D'Or, and still lives in the shadow of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

''What I believe that lacks in Neymar to accomplish the world's best player award is a big team accomplishment,'' Kaka said in London. ''When he achieves this big team accomplishment, being the leader of this accomplishment - and he has a big chance for it, I am sure of that - Neymar will be chosen to be announced as the world's best player.''

Neymar is starting a third season in Paris after Barcelona could not strike a deal to re-sign the player it sold two year ago for 222 million euros (then $246 million).

''Maybe at 27, I could have made the same mistakes,'' Kaka said. ''And so I think this is a great opportunity for him to improve himself and to be better and mature.''

While Neymar has won the French league twice - the minimum expected for a team with lavish Qatari funding - he has not won a European title with the French capital club as he did with Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final.

Neymar's only titles with Brazil so far are gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Confederations Cup on home soil in 2013. Neymar missed the 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals through injury and was part of the team knocked out the 2018 quarterfinals by Belgium. He also missed this summer's Copa America, which Brazil won without him.

Kaka was part of the squad that won the 2002 World Cup, and Brazil hasn't reached the final since then.

''Always for Brazil we have this pressure,'' Kaka said. ''Because we have won five World Cups, so everyone thinks about the World Cup. So, if you do a lot of good things for the national team but you don't win a World Cup, maybe you fail.

''I don't think it's fair but it's like this and this is the situation. And Neymar had an opportunity to play in two World Cups and didn't win one with Brazil. So, our expectation with him is for him to be the guy for the next World Cup for us. I think it's hard for him but I think every year he's more mature, he understands his position in the national team better as well and it's good.''

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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