As a writer, it is your responsibility and your job to report what you believe.
Whatever you write, it should have your full conviction and total belief. If you commit it to print, you have to back it, because you can’t take it back without being found out. So there are things that hurt you, but nothing quite like being proved wrong, and having to stage an embarrassing climb down. Therefore, it pains me greatly to write these next two sentences.
I was wrong. Neymar is the real deal.
On this very website, in the wake of Brazil’s defeat against England in February, I said: “I don’t understand it”, “he looks like the ultimate YouTube player”, and “I just don’t think Neymar is that good”.
I ignored him until the Confederations Cup, where he really made me reconsider my stance. Three minutes in against Japan, he scored a great goal and I thought maybe there is a bit more about him than I previously reckoned
But, with the greatest of respect, it was only Japan. I thought Mexico would be a tougher test, and then, with his other foot, he scored an even better volley.
And then came the moment that really worried me as a writer. He made absolute mugs of two defenders to set up the second goal in that game. It was by far my favourite moment of the whole tournament; but in that moment, the professional in me started to worry. In fact, the professional in me already started to write this article in my head, but thought to hold off for a moment.
Let’s wait to see him against some European opposition, the likes he’ll come up against next season at Barcelona.
Yet again, Neymar produced. Gianluigi Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers ever, was left standing as he watched a free-kick sail past him before nestling into the top corner. Now there was no ignoring it. The talent was there for all to see, least of all me. The awkward conversations in my head started, thinking maybe I could just sweep my previous thoughts under the carpet.
The Uruguay game gave me some hope, Neymar was a bit quieter. Maybe the pressure had got to him a bit, I thought. A little bit of me even hoped for this.
But in the final, he pretty much slapped me in the face with his talent. From minute one, he made a mockery of my previous article. He left Arbeloa in such a state that he had to be subbed off at half-time. He committed Gerard Pique and got him sent off. He played a part in all three goals. And he scored a goal so good that there was legitimate applause in my household when his left-foot drive flashed past Iker Casillas.
The win, the trophy and the player of the tournament trophy were well deserved for the young Brazilian.
Right foot, left foot, dribbling, finishing, vision, passing - you name it, he has it in his locker.
I’m looking forward to seeing how he does at Barcelona alongside the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and, of course, Lionel Messi. He won’t be shown up, and he’s certainly going to be at his level now. And that is something I wholly believe in.
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