The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around far too often in football these days, but one player who really can be that good is Neymar.
Neymar has been on the radar of all the top clubs for a while now even though he is still just 18. Much of the hype surrounding him started as early as age 13 as he progressed through the ranks in Brazil. Following his performance in the under 17’s World Cup in 2009, the likes of Romário and Pelé reportedly urged Dunga to take him to the World Cup in 2010. Although called up to the preliminary squad, he was not taken to South Africa, this was despite huge pressure from the public and many believe he would have been the joker in the pack to fire Brazil to victory.
He has been quick to dispel the talk that he is the new Pelé. Playing for Santos and sharing a remarkably similar upbringing and early rise, the comparisons are endless; yet he retains a firm stance that he is not the new Pelé, rather the only Neymar. The boy is two-footed and very skilful, can play on the right or the left and through the middle, he is also a composed finisher and is very adept at beating a man. So far so good, yet many sceptics will refer to Kerrison who was the youngest Brazilian top scorer of all time a couple of seasons ago, but has struggled to impose himself in Europe after his move from Palmeiras to Barcelona. He had an unsuccessful loan spell at Benfica and ironically will spend next season on loan at Santos, that said, Neymar is a better player.
During the 2010 campaign in Brazil, he scored a remarkable 43 goals in 63 appearances, as well as collecting the Campeonato Paulista Best Player and Copa do Brasil Top Scorer Awards, making giant strides from the previous season where he scored an impressive 14 goals. He also scored on his debut for Brazil against the USA in 2010 and impressed with his maturity on the pitch.
On the 17th November 2010, Argentina and Brazil contested a largely uneventful friendly which was settled by a late Lionel Messi strike. That night, Neymar was the best player on the pitch. Although flanked by much more experienced players; he was the one that everything good about what Brazil did went through. It was plainly clear that he worried defenders, his pace and ability on the ball matched with his silky skills were too much for the Argentinean back line and he was unlucky not to score. He has the same quick feet as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo had at that age, but with a better end product.
It is always important not to get too carried away with young players or to expect too much, it’s true he has scored goals in Brazil, which is not the same standard as the European Leagues, but he can only play the teams that are put in front of him. He has already greatly impressed in his two appearances thus far at International level. Young players in Brazil generally create more hype than others due to recent history and their ability to produce great players, the rags to riches story touches the hearts of many that follow the sport but it seems that Neymar has his feet firmly grounded. He is not allowed to wear jewellery during interviews and has a strict curfew set by his father; he also remains an avid church goer and attends elocution classes. He is very much a shy young man and prefers to do his talking on the pitch, a breath of fresh air in an age where controversy seems to follow young footballers around.
It is not a question of if he leaves Santos but when, it has transpired recently that according to his agent, Neymar will not leave before the 2012 Olympics in London as he wants to progress further in Brazilian football, another good sign about the temperament of the boy. It is reported that he snubbed a move to Chelsea as he strongly favours a move to Serie A with Inter Milan or Juventus. Whether the Italian League will suit his style is debatable as he may be asked to play a more disciplined role, but he may see it as a stepping stone into the English or Spanish League where he has plenty of suitors. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City are all interested. He is still very slight and needs to bulk up to become a top player but with his raw attributes, he could be moulded into a superstar.
There is no doubt that Neymar is currently the most sought after young player in world football. Whichever league and club is able to lure him will have a player who, if managed correctly, will eventually become one of the best players in the world.