Under a wave of suspicion and criticism, Neymar started his Copa America preparations yesterday. The 27-year-old striker arrived at Brazil's training ground outside Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, but Tuesday marked his first day of full training with the national team.
The clouds hovering over the Brazilian are many, and the main one is medical. Once again, Neymar is recovering from a fifth metatarsal injury in his right foot, the same injury that slowed his runs and dribbles at last year's World Cup. After 70 days off, the Brazilian returned to training at the beginning of April but only played four matches for Paris Saint-Germain.
Brazil fitness coach Fabio Mahseredjian said Neymar should be fully recovered after a pair of friendlies against Qatar and Honduras in early June. The Copa America starts on June 14 with host Brazil facing Bolivia in the opening match at Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo. Venezuela and Peru are also in the same group.
Brazil's coaching staff was also optimistic about Neymar's recovery for the World Cup in Russia, but the striker instead made news for his splashy dives rather than his once frequent dashing performances.
Neymar is also heading into the Copa America, a tournament Brazil hasn't won since 2007, with a disciplinary problem. Besides being been banned for three matches in France after an altercation with a fan following the French Cup final, Neymar also publicly criticized some of his teammates, a move that Brazil coach Tite doesn't like. In response, Neymar has been replaced as captain by veteran defender Dani Alves. The Copa America will mark Neymar's fourth tournament played at home.