Neymar joked that he told coach Thomas Tuchel to not take him off during Paris Saint-Germain’s 6-1 victory over Red Star Belgrade in the group stage of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Neymar had a hat trick, including two goals from free kicks, and was joined on the score sheet by Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe.
“I told the coach: ‘Do not take me off!'” Neymar said after the game. “I was joking — there is a great affinity between us. We speak often. I always want to play the full 90 minutes, though.”
Neymar said the display against Red Star was PSG’s best this season but still believes he will not be at his absolute best until later this campaign.
“It was a great game for the team and me,” Neymar said. “We controlled the match, created plenty of chances and the win was important.”
PSG lost their Champions League opener, falling to Liverpool in the 92nd minute, and will host Group C leaders Napoli in their next game in the competition later this month.
“There is a lot of room for physical and technical improvement, of course, but I have already said that February and March are the aim for that as the most important Champions League and Ligue 1 games are around that time,” Neymar said. “This is the moment when the preparation comes into its own.
“You need to be fresh then, physically, but also mentally — more so than now. I am working on my physical condition and that is what I am striving for in each training session. Come February and March, I will be at 100 percent of my powers.”
Neymar also acknowledged he feels more connected to his team in his second season after his first was derailed by a broken right foot in February that made returning for the World Cup a challenge.
“I am doing fine,” Neymar said. “Last season, I had my injury and that meant spending a lot of time away from here and focusing on the World Cup. I was a bit absent. The supporters have been great since my return, as have my teammates.
“My injury meant that I had to leave. Like I said, though, I feel good now — like I did pre-injury. Each day, I am happy to be on the pitch. It is where I want to be. The match ball will be added to my museum.”
Neymar has scored 10 goals with three assists in nine appearances in all competitions, including seven goals and three assists in seven Ligue 1 games.