Barcelona recently got Santos’ approval to lure Neymar away from Brazil; but his entry in Spain could toughen things at individual level for Real Madrid’s No. 7 superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar is today regarded as one of the finest footballers on the planet. His heavy talent, which enables him to make the most of his speed, reflexes and flexibility, has turned him into a troublemaker for most club defences back in his homeland.
Even though his abilities have not really been tested on an immense stage yet, the lack of intensity in Brazilian football – compared to European top leagues – could never be a genuine reason to belittle the 21-year-old.
It is clearly visible that Neymar profits from a level of athleticism and accuracy that many players – whether younger or older – do not have. From free-kicks to one-on-one chances, and from showy flicks to dancing his way past a bunch of defenders, Neymar has proved that he is a valuable attacking machine.
But perhaps, taking into account the fact that many youngsters outside Europe also show huge talent, it is Neymar’s personality that sets him apart in the game. His remarkable care for his hair, dancing celebrations and teasing aspect are among the things that truly make him an entertainer, aside being a simple performer.
Although Neymar, who received five red cards in his four-year spell at Santos, is judged by many to be an insolent person, others prefer to look upon him as a youngster full of life and drive.
All in all, the turbulent mix of praises and derision surrounding him – heated up by his regular obtaining of individual achievements – complete his image as a controversial player seemingly well on his way to completion.
That is when the comparison between Neymar and Ronaldo becomes valid.
Ronaldo’s controversial character has long been criticised by many traditional football fans - and in his youth days, he was even under deeper pressure. While his technique of going down easily seemed to be what angered many of his critics, the Portuguese forward was furthermore slammed for his hot temper on the pitch and numerous stories about his personal life.
But despite all his imperfections, it was undeniable that Ronaldo was a uniquely talented kid, and there was no way anyone was going to stop him from becoming a highly successful player.
His unmatchable speed, fancy footwork and athleticism are some of his top characteristics and, over time, prolific goalscorer Ronaldo has perfected his heading abilities to take on almost any defender in set-pieces.
Now, the Portuguese captain – who plays with both his left and right feet – is widely considered as the most complete footballer of this generation, even though many refuse to describe him as better than his rival Lionel Messi.
With over 200 goals for Real Madrid in only four seasons, Ronaldo has not only become a legend at the club, but also a respected figure of La Liga and Spanish football as a whole.
Just as Real Madrid have been very closely confronted by Barcelona in recent years, Ronaldo has also had to fight relentlessly with Argentina skipper Messi for individual honours, since 2009.
Whereas the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry was repeatedly highlighted through a series of Clasicos not so long ago, the public will soon be witnessing a new fierce individual matchup. In other words, the Real Madrid playmaker is about to face a new competition in Spain next season, and that is Barcelona’s fresh signing Neymar.
Needless to say, this only makes sense if Real manage to keep hold of their icon during this summer’s transfer window.
It is true that the Brazilian starlet has not yet reached the level of Ronaldo, in terms of career completion and individual development. However, the absorption of experience through the help of veteran teammates such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi could rapidly take Neymar through his stage of growth at Barcelona.
Who knows, perhaps after his first footballing season in Spain, the ex-Santos player would transform into a devastating instrument, equipped with all the necessary tools to really stand up against his mentor Ronaldo.
Interestingly, in the next Clasicos, Ronaldo will not only come up against Messi as he has so often done in the past, but against a championed South American duo. Evidently, this means an increase in efforts from the Portuguese’s side.
How do you think Neymar will fare in his first Clasico against Real Madrid? Can he challenge Ronaldo’s statistics in his first season at Barcelona?
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