Brazilian superstar Neymar arrived in hospital Friday for an operation to mend the broken bone in his right foot that has ended his season at Paris Saint-Germain and overshadowed Brazil’s World Cup preparations.
The world’s most expensive football player landed late in the evening at Belo Horizonte’s airport, then immediately drove with his entourage to the Mater Dei hospital, AFP reporters said.
The procedure was due to take place Saturday, led by Brazilian national team surgeon Rodrigo Lasmar.
Lasmar says the fracture of the fifth metatarsal will put Brazilian superstar Neymar out of action for two and a half to three months. He suffered the injury on February 25 during PSG’s 3-0 defeat of Marseille in Ligue 1.
This leaves PSG without the prolific striker — whose transfer from Barcelona cost the club a record 222 million-euro ($264 million) last August — when they face Real Madrid in a make-or-break Champions League clash next Tuesday.
There are also jitters in Brazil, where Neymar is a key part in the national side’s hopes of glory at the World Cup in Russia starting in June.
Jose Luiz Runco, a former chief medical officer for the Brazilian team, told AFP that the surgery itself “is not difficult.”
“It should take about an hour, or 90 minutes maximum,” he said.
– Pre-surgery cuddles –
Neymar, 26, struck a relaxed pose ahead of his arrival in Belo Horizonte, putting up a picture on Instagram of himself in a wheelchair with his actress girlfriend Bruna Marquezine sitting on his lap and kissing him.
The image-conscious PSG star also posted a close-up of his hand, tattooed with a small cross, holding Marquezine’s hand.
In the heated atmosphere around the operation, Brazil’s Globoesporte website claimed that Neymar was expected to come by helicopter and had booked a whole wing of the Mater Dei hospital.
But a local newspaper reported that he would take a more modest suite measuring around 80 by 40 feet (24 x 12 meters).
Staff at the hospital, a tall building with mirrored windows, were put on paparazzi lockdown, with a ban on using their cellphones anywhere near the star.
However, an AFP photographer was given access to a room similar to the one Neymar was due to take — a small suite with basic furniture and a second room for the patient.