(Reuters) - Neymar should return to Spain with renewed enthusiasm after leading Brazil to their first soccer gold medal at an Olympic Games, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.
Neymar, who has scored 85 goals in 141 games in his three seasons at Barcelona, was given permission to stay in Brazil until after international games early next month.
“I think it’s a good decision to grant him (Neymar) that,” Pique told El Mundo Deportivo. “He has earned it.
“I’m sure he is very happy and will come with a lot of enthusiasm to Barcelona.”
Neymar scored the winning penalty in a shootout against Germany in Saturday’s gold medal game at the Maracana stadium in Rio and then stepped down as Brazil captain, a position he had held since September 2014.
“It has been a difficult tournament for him,” Pique said.
“To play at home means you have the pressure to win but Ney (Neymar) is accustomed to that. He has proved why he is one of the best in the world by scoring that penalty in the final.”
Neymar has been away since May 23 after helping his club to win a La Liga and King’s Cup double last season.
He is set to play for Brazil in 2018 World Cup qualifiers after being named in new coach Tite’s squad.
Brazil take on Ecuador in Quito on Sept. 1 and five days later host Colombia in Manaus with the national team currently sixth in their South American group, outside the qualifying positions.
Barcelona decided against recalling Neymar for this Sunday’s La Liga game at Athletic Bilbao to cut down on his flights. He is expected to be available for his club in their next game at home to Alaves in La Liga on September 10.
Barcelona kicked off the league season by hammering Real Betis 6-2 last Saturday.
Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Keith Weir