Neymar has told FourFourTwo how he was surprised to be named Brazil captain by returning coach Dunga.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a successful second season with Barcelona; his 38 goals helping them secure La Liga and Copa del Rey success with a Champions League final showdown against Juventus still to come.
And he has continued scoring for his country, too. Eight in as many internationals since the World Cup have taken his tally to 43 in 62 caps as the Selecao look to rebuild following semi-final humiliation on home soil.
I was surprised Dunga chose me as captain. But at the same time I was very happy to be the manager’s trusted man
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari departed following the 7-1 spanking by Germany and 3-0 third-place play-off loss to the Netherlands, so Brazil turned to 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga, who previously led them to Copa America glory in 2007 before a quarter-final exit at the 2010 World Cup.
With Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva sidelined for September friendlies against Colombia and Ecuador, Dunga handed his No.10 the captain’s armband, not only for those two matches but on a permanent basis, citing the need for greater leadership throughout the squad.
Speaking exclusively in the July 2015 issue of FourFourTwo - out now - cover star Neymar admits he was as surprised as he was honoured by the decision.
“I was surprised Dunga chose me as captain. But at the same time I was very happy to be the manager’s trusted man,” he says. “I thank him massively for this, because it is a huge honour to captain your country.”
Also a surprise is the Selecao’s poor record in the Copa America. Brazil have been South American champions on just eight occasions, most recently in 2007, whereas arch rivals Argentina have been crowned kings of the continent on 14 occasions and Uruguay 15.
But the Barcelona star rejects the notion that leading his country to 2015 triumph in Chile would be the biggest achievement of his career to date, and insists he feels no pressure. Well, maybe a little...
I’m scared of nothing. Not even spiders! I’m just one member of the squad and I’m here to help. I have to score goals, otherwise Brazilians will kill me!
“Ultimately, I always want to win and I’ll do everything I can to win any competition that I’m playing in,” he says. “It’s not just because I’m the captain that I want to win at all costs. I enjoy winning. There’s no pressure, I’m doing what I love. I’m scared of nothing. No, not even spiders! I’m just one member of the squad, like anybody else, and I’m here to help. I have to score goals, otherwise Brazilians will kill me!”
Read the full interview with Neymar in the July 2015 issue of FourFourTwo, in which he tells us how to take the perfect selfie. Also in the magazine: Gary Lineker answers your One-on-One questions, 33 reasons why the Copa America will be better than the World Cup are revealed, and five Blighty-born boys who have already flown west to the MLS describe what Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can expect Stateside. Plus, Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan on Ashley Cole’s Italian accent and Performance tips from Jason Puncheon, James Milner, Ryan Bertrand and Asmir Begovic. Available in print, on iPad and iPhone now. Subscribe!