Neymar will be one of three allowed over-age players on Brazil’s 2016 Olympic soccer team, its coach, Alexandre Gallo, said Thursday.
“I will take [those] three players,” Gallo said in an interview with Sportv in Brazil, according to Reuters. “Or rather two. One will be Neymar. You can’t think about Brazilian football without thinking of him.”
Gallo was a little less emphatic but still clear in July, saying he wanted Neymar on the team.
Neymar, 22, was the star of the summer’s World Cup before he broke a vertebra in the quarterfinals. Brazil lost in the semifinals.
Brazil has won five World Cups but never Olympic soccer gold. Rio de Janeiro will be the first South American host of the Olympics in 2016. Neymar would be the host nation’s most recognizable Olympian.
Neymar was part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2012 Olympics, when he was 20 years old. Olympic soccer teams are made up of players 23-and-under with the option of having three over-age players.
Gallo’s opinion on whether Neymar should play in the Olympics is clear, but it is not the only one that matters. None of Neymar, Brazil senior national team coach Dunga or his club team, Barcelona, have talked about playing in the Olympics in mainstream media reports.
Some nations take greater advantage of the Olympic rule that allows three over-age players more than others. In 2012, Brazil used its exceptions on three exceptional players — Hulk, Marcelo and Thiago Silva – who started for Brazil in the just-completed World Cup.
An issue in 2016 that was not present in 2012, however, is the special Copa America Centenario, the 100th anniversary of the tournament that crowns the champion of South America.
It’s the biggest tournament of the year for Brazil’s senior national team, and its presence also puts U.S. goalie Tim Howard‘s chances of playing in Rio at risk.
Copa America Centenario takes place from June 3-26. Soccer at the 2016 Olympics takes place from Aug. 3-19. Neymar plays for Barcelona in La Liga, whose season usually begins in late August.