Could fractured fifth metatarsal diagnosis affect Neymar at World Cup?

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Henry Bushnell
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Neymar fractured his fifth metatarsal and sprained his ankle late in a 3-0 win over Marseille. (Getty)
Neymar fractured his fifth metatarsal and sprained his ankle late in a 3-0 win over Marseille. (Getty)

PSG announced Monday that Neymar has suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot, in addition to a sprained ankle. What the French club did not announce is the timetable for his recovery.

The timetable, of course, is more important, not only because PSG has the biggest game of its season in eight days against Real Madrid. The World Cup kicks off in three-and-a-half months, and Neymar is as important to Brazil as almost any player in the world is to his respective national team.

The injury will almost certainly rule Neymar out for next Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 second leg against Madrid. The sprained ankle would have done that on its own. The metatarsal fracture all but confirms it.

The question is how much time beyond that Neymar will miss. Could he return for the Champions League quarterfinals if PSG overturns a 3-1 deficit and makes it through? Is his World Cup in jeopardy?

Before we get to that, though …

What is a fifth metatarsal?

First, a clarification of what a fractured fifth metatarsal actually is. Each foot has five metatarsals. They’re the long bones that connect ankle to toes. The fifth metatarsal is the one to the outside of the foot that connects the ankle to the pinky toe.

How long does it take to recover from a fracture?

The reason PSG did not set an expected return date is likely that the severity of metatarsal fractures, and therefore the recovery timetable, can vary significantly.

Take two German stars as examples. Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in November 2016. He was expected to miss around two months, but returned to action exactly one month and one day later.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, on the other hand, has still not returned from a broken metatarsal suffered back in September. His original return target was January. That has come and gone, and Germany’s No. 1 is now merely hoping to get back on the field before the end of the Bundesliga season.

Metatarsal fractures are, unfortunately, common in soccer. Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and John Terry are among the high-profile players to have suffered at least one. More recently, Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus – Neymar’s Brazil teammate – missed around two-and-a-half months with a similar injury.

Most metatarsal injuries can be treated non-surgically. Neuer’s, however, required surgery, and was obviously more severe than most. It’s also not uncommon to have complications during the rehab process. Former England international Scott Parker, for example, broke his second metatarsal in December 2003 and didn’t get back on the field until the following season.

Neymar’s recovery time, therefore, depends on the location of the break and the severity of it. PSG’s medical report, which dubbed the injury a “fissure of the fifth metatarsal,” would seem to suggest a small crack, and no displacement of the bone. But we don’t know that for sure.

And thus we don’t know for sure whether Brazil’s talismanic forward will be healthy for the World Cup, which kicks off on June 14 in Russia.

More to come as more details of the diagnosis become available.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.