LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Brazil coach Tite said he was surprised how well Neymar performed on his return from a three-month injury lay-off in Sunday’s 2-0 pre-World Cup friendly win over Croatia but said the forward required patience.
Neymar came on at Anfield as a second-half substitute and made a swift impression with a superbly taken goal in the 69th minute as the five-times world champions warmed-up for this month’s tournament in Russia.
The most expensive player in the world has been sidelined since Feb. 25, when he fractured a metatarsal and sprained his ankle playing for Paris St Germain in a French league match against Olympique de Marseille.
“He came back better than I expected. I expected much less, because it is a process,” Tite told reporters after the game.
“He has to go through stages. He is going to have ups and downs. By the third, fourth or fifth game then he will be back to his level,” added the Brazil coach.
Wearing the number 10 shirt, made famous by Pele, Neymar’s popularity soared after he led Brazil to their first Olympic gold medal win in Rio in 2014.
The forward’s ability to create chances for himself and open up defences adds some unpredictability to the Brazil attack and after a goalless first half on Sunday they looked more dangerous with the former Barcelona man on the field.
Tite said there was no doubt that Neymar gives them something extra but said that needed to be kept in perspective.
“He is a player that is different but he can’t be given all the responsibility to decide the game, that’s not humane, he is a key part but not everything,” he said, declining to comment if the 26-year-old would start in the next friendly against Austria in Vienna on June 10.
Neymar became the world’s most expensive footballer when he signed from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($264 million) last August and he is expected to start in the opening Group E game against Switzerland on June 17 even if he is short of full match fitness.
Tite also had praise for Manchester City’s Danilo who featured at right back against the Croats with Real Madrid’s Marcelo operating as an attacking left back.
“Danilo played very well today, his defensive work was close to perfection. He doesn’t construct like Marcelo because no one constructs like Marcelo, but he was very good,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans