Organizers for Copa America Centenario have removed Brazil star Neymar from the tournament's promotion on its official website, which now features David Luiz on its splash page in his place.
"Come watch Messi, Luiz, James, Chicharito, Bradley and other world stars at the once-in-a-lifetime Copa America Centenario from June 3-26," the website now claims, removing Neymar, who had been front and center in all of the events promotional efforts in the build-up to the summer.
The development lends further credence to reports that Barcelona will only permit Brazil to call on Neymar for the Olympics, even though Copa America Centenario is on the official FIFA calendar and the Olympics are not.
After Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu reportedly said last week that the club would only release him for the Olympics, Barcelona followed that by writing a letter to Brazil's federation saying it would only consider releasing Neymar for the Summer Games. Neymar has previously told reporters that he would like to play in both tournaments. Since the Olympics are not on the FIFA calendar, clubs are not required to release their players to participate in Rio. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Brazil and Barcelona come to a separate agreement, though.
On Friday, Brazilian newspaper Globo Esportereported that Neymar would play in the Olympics only on the heels of Barcelona's letter. According to the AP, Brazil's federation responded by stating it would make "every possible effort to count on Neymar Jr. at the Copa America and at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."
Brazil has never won a gold medal in soccer, and having Neymar on the team may help end that drought. He was a member of the 2012 Olympic team that finished with a silver medal after falling to Mexico at Wembley Stadium in London. Should he participate this summer, Neymar, at 24, would be one of Brazil's three over-age players. Brazil has set winning gold before a home crowd at the Maracanã as its main objective for the summer.
Earlier in the week, SI's Grant Wahl reported that Neymar's camp has been making a final effort to work out a deal where Barcelona would allow for him to play in both competitions.
- Chris Chavez