Dani Alves

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Dani Alves doesn’t think the jokes being made at Neymar’s expense are funny and has urged his teammate with club and country not to pay them any attention.

At this summer’s World Cup, Neymar became a target of widespread ridicule from fans and media for at times over-selling contact in an attempt to get the referee’s attention.

Countless memes were created around the Brazil star’s embellished reactions and many have become viral sensations on social media, with videos of individuals imitating his falls also becoming a trend worldwide.

However, Alves doesn’t see the humour in fans’ online actions, telling reporters: “No. I don’t think it’s a joke. When it becomes repetitive, it stops being a joke and starts to be something trying to cause damage.

“But I think human being intelligence is not to let these kinds of things shoot you down. We who are around him are making sure that it doesn’t matter to him. The most important thing is about who you are, not what others think about you.”

Neymar was often criticised for his theatrics at the World Cup.

Summer speculation that Neymar was considering a move to Real Madrid was quickly stamped out by both the La Liga club and the player recently, seemingly putting an end to the rumour for the time being.

Neymar had called the 2017-18 season the biggest of his life after a record move to PSG from Barcelona last summer, with the former Santos star dreaming of Champions League, World Cup and Ballon d’Or success for himself. After early exits in Europe and in Russia, however, it appears unlikely any will happen this cycle.

Addressing the transfer speculation, Alves pointed to unfinished business as reason he hopes Neymar will remain in Paris.

“Look, I don’t guess because he who guesses isn’t sure of anything. I hope Ney remains because the story that he has at Paris Saint-Germain and in football must be reinvented year after year and it’s not because you haven’t completed a goal that you must give up on it,” Alves said.

“Really, I think that champions and people who want to build a true story in a profession, they must struggle to reach the goal. When the goal is achieved, he can go wherever he wants, but the mission is not accomplished yet and like we say: mission given is mission accomplished, and if it’s not, we must try to complete it.”

Casemiro

Casemiro, left, wants Brazil not to solely rely on Neymar for inspiration when Brazil take on Mexico in the second round on Monday.

Even footballing greats sometimes need support. With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having said their goodbyes to Russia on Saturday evening, the protagonists’ spotlight falls next at the feet of Brazil’s Neymar.

No other player is deemed as much of a game-changer as the Paris Saint-Germain forward and on Monday he will be expected to succeed where the others failed — helping his side progress to the quarter-finals.

The five-time champions face Mexico in Samara and while few countries are more renowned for producing world-beaters, Brazil must not rely solely on their star forward, says defensive midfielder Casemiro.

The 26-year-old plays with Ronaldo at Real Madrid and is quick to stress that one player cannot do it alone, even if — as he says of his two superstar teammates — “they come from another world”.

“Football will always have one or two players that people talk about,” said the former Sao Paulo volante.

“Of course, Neymar is undoubtedly that player for us here – there is no way to hide that. But if you don’t have a good team, you won’t be able to win. We have other wonderful players too. We also had in the past Romario, Pele, Ronaldo … but the whole group must be good. It’s important to have all 11 players playing together.”

One player that will undergo tests before being selected against Mexico is Marcelo. The left-back was removed early in Brazil’s last game with Serbia citing back trouble, with team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar later suggesting it may have been caused by the mattresses in the team hotel.

Casemiro, who was raised by his mum and two brothers in one of Sao Paulo’s poorest neighbourhoods, dismissed such a diagnosis.

“They are saying the mattress is bad. It was nice,” he said. “As kids, a lot of us players didn’t even have mattresses to sleep on. Each person blames whatever, but I slept for a long time on the floor. I didn’t even have a mattress.”

Times have changed. Casemiro has gone from his mother’s floor to the very top of his sport, winning four Uefa Champions League titles with Madrid and 27 caps for Brazil. He knows, however, that among his compatriots domestic titles pale in comparison to national honours.

Sixty years after Brazil’s first World Cup title, the likes of Pele, Nilton and Djalma Santos, and Garrincha continue to be lionised.

“We are totally aware that we only make history if we win and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Casemiro added. “We are growing into the competition, which is normal, and we are only going to get better. We may play a great game and be eliminated, this is football. But if we lose, we will lose with a great performance.”

Mexico will aim to make life tough this evening, but their record against South American sides is poor, with just one win in the past 15 tournaments. Casemiro, however, suspects Mexico’s venerated coach Juan Carlos Osorio will have a plan to try to catch them out.

“Undoubtedly, if they are trying to play [their normal] type of game, it will be good for Brazil,” he said. “Even though it’s not their characteristics to play defensively, their coach is very smart.

“He worked at Sao Paulo and I heard a lot of good things about him. He is a wonderful coach and definitely will want to try something different to surprise us.”

After all the eliminations of the past few days, be it Messi, Ronaldo or even the 2014-winning German national team, the biggest surprise on Monday would be for there to be no surprise at all.

Alisson

Brazil goalkeeper Alisson insists he is “100 per cent” focused on the World Cup and not the ongoing speculation surrounding his club future.

The 25-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool this summer, although Sky Sports News understands the Reds are unlikely to make a bid for the Roma goalkeeper after being put off by the club’s £80m valuation of the player.

Alisson insists his sole focus is on the upcoming tournament in Russia, where he is expected to start for Brazil ahead of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment since the start of the season and I don’t want anything to mess it up,” he said at Brazil team’s training ground in Sochi.

“I’m focused 100 per cent on training here. My representative is dealing with all questions along with Roma.”

Five-time winners Brazil face Switzerland in their opening group game on Sunday and Alisson has urged his teammates to not be distracted by the summer transfer market.

“We need to be focused and try not to read the news too much, not worry about all the speculation but focus on what is real, although at this moment nothing official has arrived,” he said.

“My focus is here. I have a contract with Roma and I am very happy there in Italian football and in Rome.

“But mainly I am happy here with the national team, living a boyhood dream and working very hard to win the World Cup.”

Alex Sandro

MANCHESTER UNITED are reportedly yet to make an offer for Juventus star Alex Sandro.

Sandro has forged a reputation as one of the best attack-minded full-backs plying their trade in Europe since heading to Turin in 2015.

And the 27-year-old has attracted plenty of admiring glances from managers across the continent, including that of Jose Mourinho.

The Manchester United boss is in the market for reinforcements this summer as he seeks to build a side capable of challenging champions Manchester City.

And signing a long-term replacement for Luke Shaw and stand-in left-back Ashley Young is one of his top priorities.

Man Utd transfer news: Major Alex Sandro deal update

Sandro has emerged as the player United are most likely to go after now the transfer window has reopened.

And recent reports have suggested a deal worth around £53m (€60m) is on the cards to take the Brazilian to Old Trafford.

However, Italian outlet Calcio Mercato claim that speculation is wide of the mark with United supposedly yet to make an offer for Sandro.

Juventus are said to have fielded no bids for the Catanduva-born ace, who is not going to the World Cup.

Man Utd transfer news: Juventus are yet to receive an offer for Alex Sandro from Manchester United

Man Utd transfer news: Jose Mourinho wants Juventus left-back Alex Sandro at Manchester United

Calcio Mercato say Juventus are yet to offer a new contract to Sandro, who is tied down until 2020.

And they reckon he is likely to move as he is to stay, despite being open to putting pen to paper at the Allianz Stadium.

Earlier this week transfer guru Duncan Castles claimed a move for Sandro would be ideal for the player and both clubs involved.

“Manchester United are doing a lot of work at present on transfers,” said Castles, who broke news of Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain switch last summer.

“[He wants] a whole new defence. Alex Sandro they have progressed to the point that Juventus expect him to go to the club, and he’s one of the players Juventus are prepared to sacrifice.

“They think they can get a fee in the region of €60m for him, and Alex Sandro wants to leave. It suits all three parties.

“The player wants to leave a get the pay-rise, Manchester United desperately need a new left-back and Juventus need cash to overhaul their team and satisfy [Massimiliano] Allegri, who says he’ll only stay if he gets a big turnover of players.”