A whole lot of players in Brazil are talented. Just like in many countries, they are compared with the former greats and this places an immense load on their shoulders from a very young age. This turns most of them into dust, but some, (Xavi Hernandez being a prime example) thrive under the pressure like the remains of years gone by turning into diamonds.
None of the Brazilian players in the past four years however, have gained as much mileage as Neymar. With his tuft of golden/white/black/he doesn’t even know what the original color is anymore, his charming smile and his tall thin frame, Neymar seems more like a Brazilian version of a male supermodel than a footballer. But throw a ball at him at any height, and he will take it down with the deftest of touches, shimmy around a few opponents and then produce a finish of great pleasure to the viewing public. The fans love him, the girls love him, the sponsors love him. But this is Brazil we’re talking about, a country where the level of defending is shabby enough to make an overweight (although no less skillful) Ronaldinho look like he’s better than Leo Messi.
Now of course, Neymar has agreed a move to FC Barcelona. After protracted negotiations, various underhand payments (I scoffed at the thirty million paid directly to the player himself) and third party ownership hoo-haa, his ‘dream move’ has finally come to fruition. The ‘Next Pele’, comparisons made because Neymar too was at Santos – has agreed to switch to Europe. The fact that he has scored over a hundred goals for the Peixe and led them to their most successful period since ‘O Rei’ himself speaks volumes. But the Brazilian league isn’t what it used to be anymore. Lots of players (Henrique, Kerrission, Geovanni being just a few) have come to Spain from Brazil and failed to make any sort of impact on the Blaugrana first team.
Signed for a combined fee in the region of sixty million euros, plus wages, Neymar didn’t come cheap. And yes, many people will say the upfront transfer fee isn’t that, but they should stop reading this article right here. The final payments made to player, club, third-party owners and agents is the final fee for a footballer in my book and in this case, he is gloriously overpriced. Not only that, he is unproven at the highest level. Brazil being the homeland of football churns out more talented players than you can count but rarely do they make it big and even rarer are the ones that shine through like diamonds.
European football is played with greater focus on tactics, positioning, marking, tracking back and also with a certain discipline and code of conduct (Luis Suarez can delete those last two parts) and Neymar has not been exposed to it yet.
Make no mistake, he is a lad of preposterous talents, on his day he could make the top defenders in the world look like amateurs but he is just that, a lad. One too many times I’ve seen Neymar go down too easily, or try to out-dribble defenders only to get crowded out. He is more individual than about the collective and that could be his downfall at Football Club Barcelona.
The team from Catalonia is built around one man, Leo Messi and it is imperative that Neymar forms a good partnership with the Rosario native or risks becoming a hugely expensive benchwarmer (Fabregas rings a bell here). Neymar needs to change his style of play and his attitude rapidly and also adapt to the pass-and-move style of Barcelona’s play. If he can do that and forge a decent understanding with the rest of the team, he may become a great. If not, this will be the most expensive signing from South America gone wrong, ever.
Of course as you are reading this, I have a glimmer of hope, a hope that Neymar becomes a player to rival the legend of Ronaldinho at the Nou Camp. I for one, hope he is a massive success and gives us another tactical option and reduces the Messidependecia that has seen us falter in European competition.
All the best to Neymar. Here’s hoping he sets La Liga alight!!
P.S. If Barcelona do not sign a center-back this season, I will fly out to the Camp Nou and slap Andoni Zubizaretta myself.