Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar has defended his gesture towards Rennes’ Hamari Traore during the 3-2 Coupe de la Ligue semifinal win on Tuesday.
Neymar was accused of showboating during the match and after picking up a late booking for a foul, went to help Traore to his feet but instead removed his hand before making contact.
Speaking in the mixed zone at Roazhon Park, Neymar defended his actions and his behaviour towards Traore.
“Football is a little boring right now,” he said. “We cannot do anything — everything is controversial.
“For example, I made a joke at the end by offering my hand [to Hamari Traore] and then pulled it away. It will cause controversy, but it is the kind of thing that I do with my friends all the time. Why not with opponents? It was just a joke.
“They were stopping me by fouling me and I was playing football. They provoked me but I also know how to provoke, in my own way, with the ball and with my football style. I am not here to kick out — I do not know how to do that.
Vous êtes un très grand joueur mais qui est sorti sur blessure hier suite à une faute grossière ? Un Rennais, Ismaïla #Sarr qui a déjà été absent des terrains pendant 3 mois à cause d’un autre très vilain geste… https://t.co/8HmXAeHrpA
— Stade Rennais F.C. (@staderennais) January 31, 2018
“I defend myself with the ball. It will not help if defenders provoke me because I will provoke them even more. I know people will speak about the incident but they should put themselves in my shoes — I am going to make my team win.”
Rennes were clearly unimpressed by Neymar’s behaviour, and pointed out that one of their players went off injured when fouled by the Kylian Mbappe, who was sent off.
“You are a great player but who had to go off injured following a major foul?” Rennes asked Neymar via Twitter. “A Rennes player, Ismaila Sarr, who has already missed three months of action because of another nasty gesture…”
Next up for PSG is a trip to Lille in Ligue 1 this weekend before Ligue 2 outfit Sochaux away in the Coupe de France round of 16 next week, which promises to be a similarly rough outing to the one Neymar experienced in Rennes.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.