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Ronaldo calls Neymar Olympic situation ‘cowardly’


SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MARCH 01: Ronaldo Nazario, tributed by Gavioes da Fiel Samba School in Sambodromo during the Sao Paulo Carnaval on March 01, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Ricardo Bufolin/Getty Images)

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Brazil legend Ronaldo reportedly said it’s “cowardly” if Neymar is forced to choose between playing for the national team at Copa América Centenario in June and the Rio Olympics in August.

“This situation is very difficult for the player,” Ronaldo said, according to reports Thursday. “I think it’s cowardly that he has to choose what competition he wants to play in.”

Brazil’s soccer federation has Neymar’s rights for Copa América Centenario, a tournament among North and South American nations, but not the Olympics.

Neymar’s club team, FC Barcelona, controls whether Neymar is allowed to play for Brazil at the Olympics in August.

Neither the federation nor Barcelona has said whether Neymar will play in Copa América Centenario, the Olympics or both.

Spanish reports have said Barcelona will allow Neymar to play in one of Copa América Centenario and the Olympics, but not both, so that he’s better rested ahead of the Spanish league season that starts in late summer.

That would mean that if Brazil’s federation chooses Neymar for Copa América Centenario, Barcelona would block Neymar from being available for the Olympics. If Brazil’s federation declines to use Neymar at Copa América Centenario, Barcelona would allow Neymar to be available for Olympic selection.

The Olympics are important for Brazil and for Neymar, since the nation is hosting the Games for the first time and has never won Olympic soccer gold.

“I would opt to play in the Olympics,” Ronaldo said, according to reports. “It would be something unheard of if they could get a gold medal at the Games in Rio.

“I don’t know what the situation is like, but ideally, how wonderful it would be for Neymar to tell that story.”

Neymar led the 2012 Olympic silver-medal winning squad for Brazil.

Ronaldo also earned an Olympic medal, bronze in 1996 while wearing “Ronaldinho” on his jersey because the team had an older Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was the youngest player on that team at 19 years old, two years before his World Cup playing debut. Brazil was shocked in the 1996 Olympic semifinals by a Nigerian golden goal.

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