Neymar is a “really good guy” according to Thomas Tuchel – although the Paris Saint-Germain head coach admits such a label might be a hard sell to outsiders.
The Brazil star saw his stock tumble with PSG fans as speculation over a move back to LaLiga dominated pre-season.
Despite being booed on his return, the 27-year-old has four goals in five Ligue 1 appearances this term and Tuchel is not surprised by the instant returns.
“This guy has a good background. It may be hard to imagine when you see it from the outside but he is really a good guy,” the former Borussia Dortmund boss told beIN SPORTS.
“It’s not hard to be close to him and convince him to do the right thing.”
Real Madrid and former club Barcelona were both linked to blockbuster moves for Neymar and Tuchel accepts the player’s head was turned.
“Between us, not much has changed,” he said. “I knew he wanted to leave the club and he knew I was against it, that for me it was neither the right moment nor the right decision to take.
“He clearly knew that as a coach, I did not want him to leave. But we also knew that it was not my decision or really his either in the end.
“There was need for a club to set the price. We both agreed that it was not decided at our level and that this should not affect our relationship, because we knew that there was the possibility of continuing to work together. It would have been stupid to ruin everything.”
Indeed, Tuchel identified last season’s shock Champions League exit against Manchester United as a bigger setback to bounce back from.
PSG shelled a 2-0 first-leg advantage to go out on away goals against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury-hit side and proceeded to stagger over the line in Ligue 1, before losing the Coupe de France final on penalties to Rennes.
“For three days I was in a really dark place like never before,” Tuchel said.
“I knew what we worked for and I knew how hard it was to reach this point with this team and this club, after the past seasons and what happened.
“I knew how hard we tried to influence the squad and how the squad responded – it was really big work to achieve that kind of level, to beat Liverpool, to win at Red Star Belgrade and to go to Manchester United and be the first French team to win there.
“To make this kind of a performance and crash in the second leg… like you have a car accident, running over the green lights and you get a crash from the side. It felt like this. What did we do wrong? We could feel after that how big that crash was.
“Even between the two games, we could feel everybody in the city believed it was different and we could go through. We did not, we could not hold it. It felt like sand running through our fingers.”
He added: “Suddenly a lot of injuries, the mood changes in the dressing room, the mood from outside. The players were not immune to all this and it was very, very hard for us to finish the season with the same spirit.
“It was not possible. The biggest example is the cup final, where we led 2-0 and it was a clear victory for us and we lost in the end.
“I trained myself not to read too much, because who knows more about us than us, but I feel it, I hear it. It was immense.”