Neymar is a YouTube Footballer – a year long saga and €57m later, he was paraded in front of 50,000 Blaugrana faithful at the Camp Nou on June 3rd.
” I think it’s good for him, because Neymar was no doubt the best player in Brazil and then he gets the experience to play also abroad. To play in Europe is a little different than to play in South America. Football in Europe is a little more tough, while South America is a little more laid back and technical.”
“The difference that I try to explain to the people is that both are really good. I love Messi, I love the player. But to make the comparison, I think Neymar has the capabilities to play better than Messi… or maybe not.”
– Pele, June 5th
Neymar was still a YouTube footballer.
It irked me every time I saw someone spewing trash casually on O Rei’s apparent successor – “Neymar is a YouTube Footballer”. The urge to shout out to the world was immense, to tell them once and for all to shut their tramp – how can you be so confident that he’s rubbish?
But the implications of a backlash were imminent since I already had faced the music with a couple of folks trying to compare Neymar with Zaha. Yes, you read that correctly. No kidding – read that again. Zaha.
It does you no good when you’re in a minority of sorts trying to overturn the opinion of scores of footballing communities especially when you’re casually defending – I’m not a Barcelona supporter, who has seen all of the 3,930,000 results on YouTube (I kid you not!). Neither am I going to be a hipster confessing that I follow the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A because of which I saw Neymar growing up in his undies (What a player!)
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However, like every other football fan out there – I can tell a good footballer from a bad one when I see one and I was hoping Neymar wouldn’t disappoint in a better tournament (cue the Zaha taunts!). If you haven’t seen a player play for multiple strings of 90 minutes, you only have an amateur opinion. The Confederations Cup seemed good for starters, a perfect platform where he could step out of YouTube and onto the football field.
This time, Neymar wasn’t stepping onto the pitch as that native Santos’ electric winger but Barcelona’s new kid on the block – a €57m expensive flop. This, even before he has stepped on the field for a competitive Barcelona game. Not to mention, this was the first time he was donning A Seleção’s iconic no.10 jersey, worn by legends including O Rei himself. No pressure kid!
3 minutes into the tournament and Neymar conjured up a magical volley which not many footballers in world football can replicate. The technique and composure was immense and everyone at witnessing the events unfolding at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha were in awe.
But “Hey! It’s a volley. Well executed volley’s come with their piece of luck as well; and then again, it was Japan!”
Neymar’s electric start to the campaign was complimented by a steadily improved work ethic and a sense of maturity. Neymar went on to score another volley (this time left-footed) against Mexico, a free-kick against Italy and ended the tournament with another left-footed belter against Spain.
Neymar ended the tournament with 4 goals and 2 assists. Only Xavi (14) bettered Neymar’s tally of 10 key passes in the tournament, only Iniesta (22) completed more dribbles than Neymar (15) and only Diego Forlan (9) had more shots on goal than Neymar (8). Rightly so, Neymar was awarded the golden ball for being the best player of the tournament. Not bad for being a YouTube footballer.
In every Brazil game I saw throughout the tournament, Neymar was starting to exhibit a shade of maturity to his game. Linearly perhaps, not exponentially – the usual media agenda to put him on a pedestal, so that they can conveniently shoot him down. Nevertheless, his growth on the field evidently promotes a hunger for learning. His performance wasn’t affected a bit as he was consistently shifting roles in Brazil’s attack.
There are still question marks over Neymar’s ability to work in a team which already has a certain Lionel Messi in it. There are also tactical aspects to his games which needs addressing. Tito Vilanova has got a beautiful talent at his disposal and if nurtured appropriately, he may go on to be one the most venerated footballers of our generation.
I’ll leave you with some numbers (via Paulo Freitas @Cynegeticus, FM Brazil’s Head Researcher)
Santos: Apps: 230 Goals: 138
Brazil: Apps: 39 Goals: 24
We are talking about 162 goals in 269 appearances for club and country.
I’m not sure which stat is more impressive, the goals or the appearances,
Because Neymar is 21 – Let that sink in.