The recent international fixtures provided a chance to have a close look at the Brazilian prodigy Neymar, who Pele said was the best player in the world this time last year.
Although, in his recent performances against Italy and Russia for Brazil, he offered little in terms of substance to back up the claims of the great Pele. Therefore he has come under some criticism, most recently by Joey Barton, who compared the footballer to being like Justin Bieber due to the fact he is better on YouTube than in real life.
Due to these performances can Neymar really be a world beater, or is he just another wonderkid who will fail to flourish?
Firstly, he’s still only 21 years old and is therefore still learning the game and maturing as a player. He possesses great skills, with poise, balance and technique the main assets in his game, and he has the Brazilian flair in abundance.
Combined with pace to burn and the ability to score from most positions on the pitch, the forward possesses all the right attacking attributes to become a star in the game. His scoring record for club and country is phenomenal as he averages 0.61 goals a game. This is the reason why he’s been linked with a multi-million pound move to one of the top clubs in Europe, with Barcelona the favourites to sign him.
His goal ratio may be fantastic but he currently plays for Santos in the Brazilian league and most of his international goals have been against the lesser nations. Only three of his 17 international goals have been against teams in the top ten in the world, in the shape of two against Argentina and one against Germany. It is for this reason his ability is difficult to judge, as he isn’t being tested at the highest level on a consistent basis. In addition to this he seemed to struggle during the international per, with both games played in bitterly cold temperatures.
At times, especially against Italy, he seemed to go missing and lacked the class which is expected of him. However, against Russia his performance was improved; nevertheless he still couldn’t find that spark. Is this due to him not turning up against the better nations, or he is simply unable to gain the yard of space he needs now he's a marked man?
I feel it is definitely the latter, teams like Italy are renowned for having a strong defensive record and he came up against Leonardo Bonnucci and Andrea Barzagli, two defenders in tremendous form at the moment.
To progress to the level and become a superstar, he needs to learn how to adjust his game now that he will become more targeted, especially against higher level opposition. In addition to this he needs to make the move to Europe to play in a high calibre league and be able to test his ability to the maximum week-in week-out.
Overall, Neymar’s potential is one of the most promising in the last few years, but to fulfil his potential he needs to take his performances to the next level. It’s fine for him to tear apart Brazilian club defences but there has to come a point, in the near future, where he makes the move away and plays in Europe. It is widely reported he wants to stay in Brazil until after the 2014 World Cup and then he will be willing to move into a top European league.
I will say this: it is definitely plausible that, in the forth coming World Cup in his own country, he could step up to the plate and produce some scintillating performance and lead Brazil to glory.
This is partly due to the fact that, with the home fans behind the team, his performances may improve, but more importantly the conditions of the pitch and temperature in the country are elements he will be used to and able to exploit.
Hopefully Neymar can kick on and become the player his potential suggests he can become.
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