Football

Neymar gives Messi a lift - on his $13m private jet

Barca stars fly to South America on Brazil ace's
$13m jet

They may be about to lock horns in the latest instalment of

Brazil and Argentina's ferocious football rivalry, but Neymar was not about to let 102 years of South American footballing enmity get in the way of his friendship with Barcelona mates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.

So when the three men were working out how to get to Belo Horizonte for international duty, Brazil star Neymar didn't hesitate to offer a lift to Messi and Mascherano on his private jet.

Local media reported that Messi and Mascherano asked for permission from Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza to accept Neymar's offer of a ride in his Cessna Citation 680, reportedly worth US$9 million ($13m).

The trio touched down in the city yesterday morning (Singapore time) to join their respective squads ahead of tomorrow morning's battle.

Photos of the trio smiling on Neymar's private jet appeared on social media shortly before their arrival in Brazil for South America's "superclasico".

While Argentina have sorely missed Messi in their past three games, which saw one defeat and two draws, Brazil have been soaring since Tite took over from Dunga in June.

JOGO BONITO

Tite, the successful former Corinthians coach, has overseen a renaissance which has left admirers talking about a return of the Selecao's fabled "jogo bonito" ("beautiful game").

A stylish 3-0 win at Ecuador in September - the first in Brazil's history - was followed by a 2-1 victory over Colombia before a 5-0 drubbing of Bolivia.

Another win over Venezuela last month - Brazil's fourth straight qualifying victory - catapulted Tite's side to the top of the 10-team round-robin standings, with 21 points from 10 games.

"I don't have the adjectives. I'm living the dream of any Brazilian coach," Tite said, after naming his squad for this week's clash with Argentina. "I try not to think too much about the history. I'm just focused on the strategy."

Brazil are likely to face the most searching examination of their reawakening at the Belo Herizonte venue, where they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.

Tostao, a veteran of Brazil's magical 1970 World Cup-winning side, wondered whether a decisive win over Argentina could finally help the country turn the page on that humiliation.

"Would it not be a symbolic landmark to end the depression, the mourning, even if it it not against Germany," the 69-year-old wrote in an opinion piece.

Brazil's rediscovered joie de vivre has been best exemplified by the form of Neymar, dazzling in last month's win over Bolivia, while others such as Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have also shone under Tite.

Manchester City-bound teenager Gabriel Jesus has also impressed, scoring three goals in four games under Tite.

NO SANCHEZ

In other matches, second-placed Uruguay meet third-placed Ecuador in Montevideo, while fourth-placed Colombia take on fifth-placed Chile in Barranquilla.

Chile's preparations have been jolted by a late injury to striker Alexis Sanchez. The Arsenal star suffered a muscle strain during training in Santiago, preventing him from travelling to Colombia. - AFP.

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