Neymar has lamented the fact Santos marking master Adriano will miss the FIFA Club World Cup 2011 through injury, and joked that his side will therefore have to knock Barcelona’s hypersonic ball wizard Lionel Messi off balance to stop him.
Having done excellent man-to-man jobs on a couple of dangerous opponents during O Peixe’s triumphant Copa Libertadores campaign in the first half of this year, Adriano had been earmarked to perform a similar function on Messi in Japan, provided the respective champions of South America and Europe advance to the Yokohama final.
However, the 24-year-old defensive midfielder suffered an ankle injury against Atletico Goianiense last week that will require surgery and keep him on the sidelines until next year.
“Adriano has been very important this season, acting as a piano charger and never stopping to run,” said Neymar. “We call him 'iron lung' because he never stops! He will be sorely missed. It is a big loss, especially for him because he was enjoying a wonderful moment in his career.”
Neymar acknowledges that Adriano’s absence will make the already towering task of nullifying the 24-year-old Argentinian an even taller one.
“I’ve already said that Messi is the best [in the world], and that stopping him is very difficult,” the 19-year-old forward said, before joking: “I don’t know how but we are studying really hard for a way for someone to, at the very least, manage to give him a push to slow him down!”
Adriano’s injury aside, Neymar revealed that Muricy Ramalho’s team’s build-up to the tournament has been ideal: “The preparations have been going really well and we hope to arrive there and have a great World Cup.”
Santos won successive Intercontinental Cups in 1962 and ’63, with a legendary side comprising the likes of Gilmar, Zito, Pepe, Coutinho and Pele.
Brazilian teams - namely Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Internacional - won the first three instalments of the FIFA Club World Cup, but the trophy has gone to Europe in each of the subsequent four years.