Neymar denies aiming for return to World Cup

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BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Neymar and the Brazilian football confederation denied media reports that the striker could undergo special treatment on his fractured vertebra to try to play in the World Cup final if the tournament hosts make it that far.

Neymar and the confederation released statements late Sunday saying that nothing that could risk the player’s health or career would be attempted to allow him to try to play if Brazil beats Germany in Tuesday’s semifinals.

The statements came after the Brazilian media quoted doctors from the Brazilian club Santos, Neymar’s former team, as saying there was a chance the striker could return for Sunday’s final with alternative treatments and painkiller injections.

The 22-year-old Barcelona star was ruled out of the rest of the World Cup after being kneed in the back late in Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia.

Tests conducted at a hospital shortly after Friday’s match showed a fracture in his third vertebra.

The confederation said in its statement that the “the prognosis is excellent” for Neymar, but only if the injury is given the proper amount of time to heal.

“Rushed measures put in risk his future life as an athlete,” the statement said.

Brazil team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said Neymar is expected to be sidelined for about 45 days. He has returned home from the team’s training camp to recover.

“Let’s not create an illusion to the Brazilian people,” Runco told Globo TV. “There isn’t the smallest possibility for Neymar to play on July 13 if Brazil reaches the final.”

Neymar’s staff said in his statement that he remains solely under the care of the Brazilian confederation’s doctors until the end of the World Cup. It said the visit by Santos’ doctors was a “cordiality.”

While the statement never directly dismissed the possibility he could play in the final, it said that “no alternative treatment was discussed.”

“If Neymar becomes fit to play a professional football match before initially expected, it will be because of the positive progress of his condition through the treatment currently being administered,” the statement said.

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