Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano calls Brazilian star Neymar the future of the Spanish giants, telling ESPN on Friday that he hopes the 25-year-old striker stays with Barca for years to come.
Neymar’s future at the Camp Nou is in question amid reports the Brazil international could be set for a world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
“In the case of Ney, obviously he is young, and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” Mascherano said in a posting on the US-based sports network’s website.
“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club, and we hope we can keep on counting on him.”
Reports suggest Neymar has already told Barca teammates he wants to move, but Mascherano says such talk has not affected the Brazilian, who has scored 105 goals in 186 matches for Barcelona and 52 goals in 77 caps for his country.
“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking,” Mascherano said. “There’s always going to be rumours and news around him.”
Asked what advice he might have for Neymar after his own pondering of a move to Juventus a year ago, the Argentine said he sees Neymar happy in Spain.
“It’s really difficult to give advice,” Mascherano said. “Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy.
“(Barca) are a club that have made it possible for him to perform at his best. But after that, each person has to make their own decisions.”
Mascherano has seen the swirl of transfer market talks grow in intensity in recent years and bring issues for players at the heart of such speculation.
“The transfer market has been transformed recently into something quite fun,” he said. “Everyone in recent years is waiting for August 31 to see what’s going to happen. It’s part of what football has become, the most popular sport in the world, a big business and we are immersed in this business. For that reason, there’s so much speculation and noise.
“Each player is different. There are people it affects more, others less. The speculation and all the noise that surrounds a club or a player is always going to exist because football is huge.”
Barcelona are preparing for the upcoming campaign with matches against Juventus on Saturday in New Jersey, Manchester United on Wednesday in suburban Washington and against Real Madrid in Miami.
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