On June 17, Spanish tabloid Don Balon published an article titled "Leo Messi Laughs at Neymar: The Phrase That Sets Brazil-Switzerland on Fire."
The article’s author claimed that Neymar’s remark about being the "best player in the world" due to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo being "above all others" and "from another planet" was not a compliment but rather a warning to Messi.
The article also stated ambiguously that "Neymar's laughter did not wane when he heard about" Messi’s folly, without elaborating any further.
Seizing upon the article’s catchy headline, The Daily Star and The Daily Express reported the following day that Neymar allegedly "mocked" Messi and "laughed" at him after the Argentinian footballer missed his penalty shot during a match with Iceland.
While Neymar had indeed described himself as the best football player in the world, he made this statement before Messi’s fiasco, and the remark therefore seemed like a joking boast and a compliment to Messi and Ronaldo.
"The two who are above all others right now are Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi," he told Brazilian YouTube channel Desimpedidos.
"For all modesty, today I am the best player in the world — because they are from another planet."
Twitter users essentially echoed his opinion, with many condemning him for selfishness and totally unjustified vanity:
Neymar will always be half the player that Ronaldo and Messi were at his age. Simple as that.— Kaustubh Pandey (@Kaus_Pandey17) 18 июня 2018 г.
Neymar is nothing but total hype. A meaningless dribbler, social media addict and won trophies in Barcelona cuz of Messi— Manchester United (@Judasisno1) 18 июня 2018 г.
He is nothing but the new age Robinho — Lot of showboating but no end result
Neymar previously said that the competition was not about proving one's own abilities, but rather about helping one's national team win the World Cup.
"I don't want to be the best player in the world, I want to win the World Cup," he summed up.
"Winning the trophy would make myself, my family and my country so happy."
In April, Neymar named six footballers who he believed could excel at the 2018 World Cup: Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Mohamed Salah, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Luis Suarez. Several media outlets, however, including Business Insider and The Daily Express, were quick to note that the Brazilian footballer did not include Messi or Ronaldo in his short list.
The Argentina-Iceland and Switzerland-Brazil clashes both ended in a draw on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Brazil will play against Costa Rica on Friday in St. Petersburg, whereas Argentina will face Croatia on Tuesday, June 26, also in Russia's northern capital.
Correction: Sputnik’s original article had followed the premise of the British newspapers’ publications, and the editorial team apologizes for any misunderstanding it might’ve caused.