Neymar has told The Players’ Tribune that doctors told him he was fortunate to be able to walk again following the challenge that ended his participation in the 2014 World Cup with Brazil.
Speaking to former Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique for the website, he recalled the aftermath of the challenge that saw him stretchered off two minutes from the end of the quarterfinal win over Colombia.
Napoli full-back Juan Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back, escaping without a card but leaving the playmaker with a fractured vertebra that could have confined him to a wheelchair.
“I remember that I had my head on the ground, and Marcelo was saying: ‘No, no…Get the doctors in.’ And I said: ‘No, no, no. I want to play.’ Because I wanted to score,” Neymar said.
“But I couldn’t manage to lift my legs. I couldn’t move my legs. And the doctor took me out and I started to … to cry, because it was very painful and I didn’t feel anything.
“I didn’t feel my legs, so I went to the hospital that’s in the stadium. And there they left me and I remember that I was with my leg bent like this, and when I stretched it out …
“Then I went to the hospital, did the tests and all, and they told me: ‘I have two pieces of news. One good and one bad.’
“And I was like: ‘The bad one first.’ ‘The bad one: You can’t play the World Cup. It’s over for you.’
“And I’m like: ‘What’s the good one?’ ‘The good one is that afterwards you will be able to walk, because two centimetres to the side …'”
Who are World Cup 2018 favorites? @neymarjr names his on Piqué+
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) December 27, 2017
Neymar made a full recovery and, with Pique, helped Barcelona win the Liga title and the Champions League the following season.
They added another league title before Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record summer move after Pique had said on social media he believed he would stay.
The 25-year-old has teamed up with teenager Kylian Mbappe at PSG, forging a formidable goal scoring trio with Edinson Cavani.
He praised Mbappe, adding: “I see him doing very well. He’s a great player. He’s got a lot of quality. He’s someone who’ll end up in the football history books.
“Yes, he has a lot of quality, if he continues like this. He’s a good guy, he works hard. I think he has a bright future.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman