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Soccer Legend Neymar Criticized For His Interest In Poker

Brazilian PokerStars Ambassador Plays The Game Too Much For Some

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Neymar Jr.Soccer superstar Neymar Jr. just can’t seem to get away from the poker table. That’s the allegation coming from French soccer legend Emmanuel Petit, who says that poker has affected the Brazilian player’s efforts on the pitch.

Neymar, who now plays for Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, has been a regular at the poker tables through the years. The PokerStars ambassador and regular at the World Series of Poker and other tournaments throughout the world appears to have drawn some concerns that he would rather be raking pots than scoring goals.

“I’m a huge fan of Neymar as a player when he used to love football,” Petit recently told Essentially Sports. “This guy, even while he was playing for Paris Saint-Germain the last two years, his mind was not a hundred percent committed to football. He was more committed to poker, you know. Poker tournament than football games.”

Big Talent

The soccer star began playing poker in 2014 and has embraced the game. He has officially cashed for $32,000 in live tournament winnings, but plays cash games as well. In 2018, he took sixth in a $1,400 side event at the Brazilian Series of Poker for $21,072.

In 2021, Neymar signed on as an ambassador with PokerStars, a move to not only reach soccer fans but also to appeal to a growing Brazilian poker scene. The deal was his second partnership with the brand.

“When I’m not playing football, I love playing cards,” Neymar said in announcing the deal.

On the pitch, Neymar has played for some of the world’s most successful clubs including Santon in Brazil, FC Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain. He’s scored more than 200 goals and also appeared on the Brazilian World Cup team in 2014, 2018, and 2022. The forward also captained the 2016 team that won the Olympics.

Criticism

Despite so much talent, some critics have wondered if he has been fully committed to soccer. Neymar has also been plagued by injuries at times, affecting his availability.

“After losing the first leg 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League last year, the Al Hilal player was seen at the European Poker Tour Paris, raising fans’ fury who called him unprofessional,” Essentially Sports reported. “It was also what the 1998 World Cup winner was talking about.”

Despite the criticism, Neymar has been a sought-after player since he began his professional career in 2009. He signed a two-year $418-million deal with Al Hilal after the team also paid a reported €90 million ($98 million) transfer fee.

Several soccer pros have been known to play poker. Spain’s Gerard Pique has been spotted at European poker tournaments and Germany’s Max Kruse scored a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2022. PokerStars has also had past sponsorships with soccer pros Cristiano Ronaldo and Teddy Sherringham.

*Photo by PokerStars – Eloy Cabacas