Football

Neymar: Can he fulfil his potential at Barcelona?

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Neymar is Barcelona's latest recruit (©GettyImages)
Neymar is Barcelona's latest recruit (©GettyImages).

When Barcelona announced they had finally convinced Neymar to move across the Atlantic and ply his trade at the Nou Camp, for a fee in the region of £49 million, the Spaniards had undoubtedly captured the most exciting prospect in world football.

The youngster has been a marked man for many a transfer window with Europe's elite keeping a watchful eye over Neymar's development. He has rebuffed moves in the past claiming the time was not right and he was happy to stay with Santos.

But now, at 21-years-old, a year before the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Neymar has chosen to hit the big time. Despite the undeniable talent and expectation he brings with him, there are no guarantees he will be a success at Barcelona; he has it all to prove.

Firstly, plenty of South Americans do not travel well. Granted they tend to settle into the sway of life in Spain better than the wet and windy weather they face in England, but Neymar could struggle to adapt. His reasons for opting to stay in Brazil are debatable but a reluctance to leave could signal that he feared being taken out of his comfort zone at the Vila Belmiro.

Having spent so long as a big fish in a small pond Neymar faces a whole new challenge at Barcelona. The pool of talent is as wide and deep as the Atlantic ocean he will cross to reach Spain. His own team mates are of the highest standard. In Lionel Messi, Neymar will line up alongside the current Ballon D'Or winner and man he has so often been compared to.

Neymar has made the correct noises since he signed, claiming his aim is to help Messi remain the best player in the world. But Neymar's belief in those words will be put to the test in the coming season. The Brazilian has been used to having the Santos team built around his talents, but Barcelona is Messi's oyster. Neymar will be forced to play second fiddle to the little Argentinian, a tune that may not suit his ears.

It has been argued two rights could make a wrong. While the pair have striking similarities Messi is the complete player whilst Neymar has a long way to go. In Brazil, teams sit and defend deep, so an attacker with the ball at his feet has the time to assess a situation before taking on his man. In the Champions League players are rarely afforded the luxury to think before they act.

The youngster's decision making has to go up so many steps, he may well need a new ladder. Confidence is a key aspect of Neymar's game, if he doubts himself he could wilt under the pressure. Having to face games and situations when they are not going his way will be a new experience.

Of course, in an attacking sense Neymar has plenty up his sleeve with dazzling tricks, excellent vision, brilliant technique and an eye for goal. It is difficult to doubt that this will translate into success, but in the same breath, his defensive game is lacking. His recent performances in the Confederations Cup have been eye catching going forward, with two vicious volleys and an assist in the match against Mexico too. But during periods of the second half the Mexicans rallied and pushed Brazil backwards.

Neymar is unfamiliar with the role of tracking back and did so petulantly, with frequent glimpses of defensive indiscipline.

The style of Barcelona's play does not allow this to happen. Their system does not work if you have one player in the team that does not chase and harass their opponents in sync with the rest of the team. Each cog must complete their own task for the machine to perform. The biggest stars in the team such as Andreas Iniesta and Xavi, along with Messi, also work the hardest. In times gone by Ronaldinho was never a fan of defending and was afforded a bye due to his talent at the other end of the field.

But things have changed, within this Barcelona team your need more than fancy tricks in your locker. Neymar has to buy into the team's mentality, the Barcelona we see today do not and cannot afford to have passengers that refuse to put in the hard yards. Just ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

But is it right to doubt the judgement of Brazil as a nation? The most successful country to ever play the game believe he is the best. What more do we need? Listen to the raucous cheers that fill a Brazilian stadium when he touches the ball.

He only has to take a throw in and the crowd are on their feet. it is clear the Brazilian public have no doubts about Neymar, their latest hero. But the Brazilians do like to hype their men up in a fit of hyperbole.

It seems almost every year someone is dubbed 'the next Pele'. Atletico Mineiro's Bernard was named in the Brazil Confederations Cup squad and is already the next big thing. In recent years a few notable players have promised much but delivered little from the Samba shores.

When Robinho signed for Real Madrid in 2005, Pele himself had announced the striker as his heir. The world expected. But after failing to settle in Spain and a turbulent time at Manchester City Robinho fizzled out. Now at AC Milan, aged 29, he has won trophies throughout his career but his potential will go down as unfulfilled.

The weight of expectation will weigh heavy on Neymar's young shoulders but as Santos' leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 230 matches he need to be confident yet not cocky he has what it takes.

Questions will continue to be asked about Neymar's ability though. His displays under the eye of the world have been adjudged to be inadequate for a player with such a lofty billing. Even his impressive goal scoring record for Brazil has been derided with so many appearances coming in uncompetitive games.

But with his future resolved, he has finally announced himself on the global stage at the Confederations Cup. Two sparkling performances in the group stage has made the world sit up and take notice. Ifs and buts will always be scattered in an argument over Neymar; he could go on to lead Barcelona into a new era of success, form the most feared partnership in world football with Messi and claim countless Ballon d'Or awards.

Or he could be back at Santos a rich man with a couple of trophies to his name, still revered in Brazil but resented elsewhere, in a few years time. One thing is certain, it's going to be fascinating to see how his career develops. It's up to him to prove the hype is real.

 

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Topics:
Brazil Football
Football
Neymar
La Liga
Barcelona
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