Neymar may make his much-anticipated move to European football before his contract with Brazilian club Santos ends after next year's World Cup.
The Brazilian forward reiterated that he is happy at Santos but said he may leave any time he wants. He said all the talk about his future is being made by people "who don't know anything" about his life.
"If I feel that it's time to leave, I'll leave," Neymar said after Santos' match in the Sao Paulo state championship on Sunday. "If I feel it's the right thing to do, why not? This is personal. I will make this decision, nobody else."
Until now, Neymar had constantly said he will not move to Europe before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, dismissing constant reports in Brazil and abroad of his impending transfer.
Brazil teammate Daniel Alves recently told Spanish media that the striker has already reached a deal to join him at Barcelona later this year, but Neymar downplayed the statements as rumors.
"What if I say that (Lionel) Messi is coming to Santos?" Neymar joked. "I thank Daniel for what he said, he is a good friend, but I'm happy at Santos right now."
Many in Brazil have been saying that Neymar needs to move to European football to gain experience and reach his full potential. Among those favoring his transfer are assistant Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, former Brazil star Zico and former Brazil coach Mano Menezes. But the player said he is happiest when playing at home, close to his relatives and friends. The 21-year-old Neymar has a young son in Brazil, although he is not married.
Neymar has been struggling in recent matches and had another lackluster performance in Santos' 0-0 draw with rival Corinthians on Sunday. He was not a factor throughout the match, making several mistakes and receiving a yellow card that suspended him from the next match.
"It wasn't good," he said briefly of his performance, while being mobbed by journalists after the final whistle.
Neymar is touted as the future of Brazilian football but has been criticized for disappointing performances in key matches with Santos and Brazil. He was attacked by critics in Brazil and abroad after playing poorly in Brazil's 2-1 loss to England in a recently friendly.
He is a celebrity in Brazil and some local media have linked his poor play to the recent announcement that he is officially dating a local soap opera star.
- Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was born in Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo 21 years ago to the day on February 5, 1992. The Brazilian has already become a worldwide phenomenon. To celebrate his big day, we take you through some of the most important days of his young life. Enjoy. Photo: Terra
- At 11, Santos offered him a contract to join their youth academy. Six years later, at 17, he debuted with the top team, where he stood out from the first day, winning the starting position as well as the heart of all the fans.
- Although most of the country wanted to see him at the 2010 World Cup, Dunga did not believe it was convenient, and his debut with the national team only came after the tournament when Mano Menezes took over.
- Since then the greats in Europe have had their eyes on him. He is considered the new Pele, creating a bidding war between Madrid and Barcelona for his talents.
- Luis Alvaro de Oliveira, president of Santos, has done everything in his power to keep him home, especially when it comes to Real Madrid signing him. Photo: Terra
- Messi could be his new teammate, as Barcelona is closest to signing him for an estimated 60 million Euros. Photo: Terra
- The Brazilian prodigy won the 2011 Puskas Award for the best goal that year. He was a runner up for the prize in 2012. Photo: Terra
- Last October, Neymar celebrated his 200th game for Santos by using the No. 200 jersey. He also happened to score a fantastic goal in the game. Photo: Getty Images Watch the goal.
- Although Neymar has yet to ply his trade in Europe, he is already a worldwide star. He even has his own logo which was unveiled in November. Photo: Loducca
- A day after his birthday (tomorrow), Neymar is scheduled to take on England with his Brazilian teammates from Stamford Bridge in London. Earlier this year, he showed off his national team's new kit. Photo: Terra Ready about it.
- Neymar already delighted English fans over the summer as he played with the Brazilian Olympic team at London 2012. Although he had some outstanding performances, Neymar and Brazil came up short of winning gold, falling to Mexico in the final. Photo: Getty Images