Bound to be another unpopular choice with all of the gung-ho Neymar fans, those of whom believe he’s the best player in the world yet hasn’t even played in a high-profile match to date.
Neymar’s made his protracted move from Santos to Barcelona just a few weeks ago for an astronomical £50 million, but will this turn out to be a smart move or not? Will Neymar be a hit on the pitch, or just a hit off it?
Don’t get me wrong, Neymar has a huge marketing potential and will sell a lot of shirts. Barcelona have a really historical relationship with Brazilian superstars, from Romario to Ronaldo and then Ronaldinho, but is the currently hottest-prospect in Brazilian football worth the fanfare that follows him wherever he goes?
To me, from the games I’ve seen of Neymar, he looks like a very unknown quantity. He’s a bag of tricks and he’s got pace to burn, but I’m not sure if he has the mental attributes and desire to be a really top footballer. It’s not just enough to be uber-talented, you need to have some kind of substance and work-ethic to go with it. I can imagine Neymar getting a bit caught up with the bright lights of Barcelona and not really living quite up to the challenge he now has in front of him.
That being said, I applaud him for making the move from South America to Europe. He was on good money in Brazil, something which Brazilian football hadn’t really seen much of until recently. Finally the football league has money to invest, and so their teams are able to pay the wages that prevent many of their stars from being poached by European sides. It still happens, whilst the Brazilian league is at the level it is, but until it improves greatly Europe will still be the place to play. Neymar and his father have worked hard to produce the move to Barcelona, whilst perhaps the safer, more comfortable route would’ve been to stay put – where he’s already loved and idolised.
Seeing Neymar play, as exciting as it can be, can often be a bit misleading. The tricks and stunts and goals that he’s been scoring have been whilst playing to a quite ordinary standard, and I really can’t picture him pulling off the same tricks during La Liga – against the likes of Athletico, Madrid and Valencia. But perhaps he won’t need to, maybe he’s the kind of forward that Barcelona have been crying out for since the departure of Samuel Eto’o and the fall from grace of David Villa. Ibrahimovich arrived at the club a few years back, in similar circumstances with a huge fanfare and gigantic transfer fee attached, but he simply didn’t show the desire to adapt to fit into the Barcelona way of playing. Maybe Neymar will be a much easier fit, without too much adaptation to the system needed. Neymar also has something that Zlatan didn’t, and that’s many many years to learn at the top. This undoubtedly has to be Neymar’s greatest asset, his age, and the knowledge that at the Nou Camp he can be trained and moulded to become exactly the kind of superstar Barcelona needed.
Neymar, for all his brilliance in the Brazilian leagues, hasn’t really looked the same player on the International stage. When faced with a strong, uncompromising central defender, I don’t think he really shows the willpower to get the best over his man. He looks like he’s lacking a lot in physical strength, something I’m sure the Barca coaching team will work on.
To me, as a neutral looking in on this move, it looks as if Barcelona have tried to make a statement to the world of football. Despite winning La Liga comfortably, the season was a big let down, with the manner in which they crashed out of Europe to the eventual European champions. They needed to make a statement and to assure everyone that Barcelona still meant business, that they were still a huge power and that they were here to stay. It’s going to take them time to get over Guardiola’s departure, and to see him in charge of Bayern next season will be like seeing their former Wife with another lover, but at least with Neymar in their flanks their Catalan fan-base have something to shout at again, and somebody who’ll inevitably play just the way the fans adore.