Barcelona gamble on Neymar
Published: 09.06.13 / Written by: David Gold
It was one of the longest running transfer sagas of recent times but finally Neymar has made his move and it is, as expected, to Barcelona.
The Brazilian starlet has been one of the most talked about players of recent times, his silky skills and match winning ability generating huge amounts of publicity for his club Santos, not to mention Brazilian football itself.
In the end Neymar’s move had an inevitability about it. With his contract running out in 2014, it seemed logical to go now. Not only did it mean Santos didn’t lose him for free, but they could really do with the money – and it should be noted that the player has a number of different stakeholders who own him, so the club do not get the whole transfer fee.
Santos had become somewhat predictable, built around Neymar’s skills but devoid of other invention despite their talents. Perhaps Neymar’s departure will liberate them, placing more responsibility on others to step up, as well as giving the club money to invest in replacements.
But Neymar had clearly outgrown Brazilian football. The huge open spaces of the Brazilian game were no challenge for the youngster, able as he is to stride through them quickly and tear apart opponents exposed by the wide gaps between the lines in the Brazilian league. There was no longer a real challenge for him, it seemed, at Santos, and so the departure had an inevitability about it.
The big question now is can Neymar live up to his huge reputation? Perhaps. Barcelona is a good place to go – where Ronaldinho made his name in European football and many South Americans thrive there, not least the current darling of the Camp Nou, Leo Messi. But Neymar is no Messi and it will be interesting to see if the two can complement each other. Neymar should play on the left of Barcelona’s front three, but he will want to drift inside to the space Messi occupies.
Neymar also has to get used to European defences. He is a player who has struggled whenever he has come up against defences who can stand off him and close down space. He is great with one man in front of him and loads of space, but when the space is defended well and the defender does not commit too quickly, Neymar can be predictable and short of ideas. At the Olympics in London last year he failed to make an impact, marked out of most games by wily opponents who knew he wanted to do it alone. Neymar will have to lose that individuality to be a success in Europe. It has been too easy for him so far, able to win games on his own at times, but against international and European defences you must realise your role in the team. That is the big challenge that this most precocious of players must now get past if he is to make a name for himself in the world game.