Neymar facing three months out as PSG forward arrives in Brazil in wheelchair
Brazilian superstar Neymar will be sidelined for up to three months - perilously close to the eve of the World Cup - after undergoing surgery on his broken foot, his doctor says.
The worse than previously announced prognosis came as the Paris Saint-Germain striker, 26, arrived in Rio de Janeiro from Paris for Saturday's operation.
"The (recovery) period will be around two and a half to three months," national team surgeon Rodrigo Lasmar, who flew with Neymar, said Thursday.
The injury has not only ruled the world's most expensive player out of PSG's make-or-break Champions League clash with Real Madrid on March 6, but more worryingly for the football-mad public in Brazil, also threatens the much-fancied national side's build-up to the World Cup, starting in Russia on June 14.
Lasmar, who will lead the surgery at a hospital in Belo Horizonte, said there is no quick fix for the striker.
"It's not a simple fracture, but a fracture in an important bone in the middle of the foot," Lasmar said.
Dressed in a black hoodie, a black baseball cap and wearing sunglasses, Neymar left the plane in a wheelchair. He smiled and took selfies with other passengers before leaving on a private jet to an undisclosed destination.
Neymar could arrive at the hospital on Friday by helicopter for maximum privacy, according to local press reports. From the airport he may have headed straight for his villa in the Rio area, the reports said.
At the Mater Dei de Belo Horizonte hospital, an entire wing has been reserved for Neymar and his entourage, and staff have been warned to uphold the facility's policy regarding confidentiality, said GloboEsporte.
The initial assessment did not appear as serious on Sunday, when Neymar was reported to have suffered a hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal, as well as a twisted ankle late in PSG's 3-0 win over Marseille in Ligue 1.
Neymar's father had predicted "at least six weeks" out, while PSG coach Unai Emery even said there remained a "small chance" of getting him back in time to face Real Madrid.
But Lasmar's assessment painted a graver picture.
"Yesterday we went back to the hospital (in Paris) and made new exams that left the seriousness of the fracture very clear," he told journalists in Rio.
"There was no doubt left regarding the treatment. We were unanimous in agreeing that it would have to be surgical treatment. More conservative treatment, without surgery, would present a far greater risk for refracture. We can't run that risk."