Mar 28, 2011

Neymar: The Brazilian prodigy with the world at his feet

Jack Leahy-

Google ‘Neymar’ and, without too much effort, you come across terms like ‘the new Pele’, ‘superstar’ and ‘wonderkid’.

Neymar strikes it home against Scotland

The 19-year old Santos striker’s stock on the continent rose significantly on Sunday as his two classy finishes put Scotland to the sword at the Emirates. In the 28 or so hours since the final whistle blew in London, the football world has been quick to laud the rise of the game’s latest superpower, draining every last drop out of the heady symbolism of Ronaldo’s pre-game appearance on the pitch.


This morning, football rumour-mills were homogenous in linking Neymar to the likes of Manhester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona, and Real Madrid. The more foolhardy of football’s big spenders are most likely preparing themselves for a long summer’s negotiating in Brazil as they scramble to capture what is undoubtedly a great talent.

However, as we have found out all too often in recent years, enormous potential is not always fulfilled. While he certainly showed glimpses of potential unprecedented in recent Brazilian exports to Europe, one has to question any talent which comes out of Brazil’s national league with so fanatic a home support.

Ever since PSV Eindhoven set the trend for Brazilian talent transferring to Europe at a young age, we have seen a plethora of youngsters from Santos, Sao Paolo, Corinthians, etc. come up north with reputations vastly over-hyped by Brazilian journalists all too keen to copy and paste the large headlines celebrating the birth of ‘the new Pele’.

The system has had its successes; some of the greatest players of the modern era – Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Lucio, Ronaldinho, and Kaka to name but a few – have followed the now well-travelled path to Europe long before they hit their twenties.

Perhaps due to the blind zeal with which the big-spenders snap up these youngsters and perhaps due to the overwhelming hype which inevitably surrounds them, for every Ronaldo unearthed we have to put up with twenty Klébersons, Ricardinhos, and Denílsons. Even Robinho serves as an example of how genuine talent can so drastically capitulate under the intense microscope of the British media.

What makes Neymar any different to the inflated egos and prima donnas who flock to these shores every time the transfer window creeps open? You might argue that Neymar’s talent is unprecedented by the recent young imports from Brazil, demonstrating a clinical talent and sublime skill in single-handedly seeing off the Scottish challenge.

Neymar is different alright, for good and bad reasons. Since Robinho, few if any have shown the vast potential of the young Santos star and made an impact on the international stage. However, there are serious questions about his attitude, one which may seriously harm his progression.

Not the first pair Roy Keane would have reached for

To start, have a look at the elements of Sunday’s game separate to the match itself. While it may sound old-fashioned, when a young player turns out for his country at such a raw stage of his career in flashy purple boots and a ridiculous haircut, you have to question his commitment to the footballing side of a professional career in the game.

Secondly, tonight’s confirmation that the Brazilian FA will not submit an official complaint over his self-propagated claims to have been subjected to racist abuse is telling. What fans and the Scottish FA alike report is that Neymar was booed on a number of occasions for what the crowd perceived as unsporting behaviour and showmanship. Their complaints are more than justified – I did not see the game in full, but I lost count of the number of times the youngster went for the showy stepover or numerous other tricks rather than playing a much simpler and more respectful option.

The reaction of the Scottish portion of the crowd was a litmus test for maturity spectacularly flunked. In Brazil, he is worshiped in God-like terms and anything contrary to that, it seems, is blasphemy. The lack of action of the part of both F.A.s confirms his reaction as petulant and points to an over-inflated self-image.

The Scottish FA have done so much in recent years to root out individuals connected with racist and sectarian views in recent years and their level of co-operation with football’s governing bodies has been exemplary. The last thing they would do is let racist abuse through the net they have done so much to tighten by conducting extensive searches for guilty parties.

The actions which provoked the booing of the crowd are not untypical; week after week, highlights of Brazilian domestic football beamed all the way to Europe show Neymar trying out quadruple stepovers and standing on the ball to taunt opponents. Such an approach is popular in beach and street football-mad Brazil, but in Europe crowds don’t take well to arrogance. 8 years ago, Wayne Rooney has given a hefty slap on the wrist for taunting West Brom defenders while playing for Everton and the likes of this are rarely seen in the Permier League.

Lastly, if you need any confirmation that Neymar’s approach is arrogant, have a look at this; a cocky penalty attempt from July of this year gone horribly wrong which epitomises his game.

So, what now for Neymar? With a drastic change in attitude, he can go far. Whether or not he can do so right now when taken out of the comfortable environment of Brazilian football and thrust into the deep end of a major European league is a question with entirely negative answers. If he is to move – which I don’t think he should – it should be to a Manchester United or Arsenal, clubs which will nurture his talent and allow for personal as well as footballing development. But, in this money-mad world, is that going to happen?

Caveat, emptor.

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  • ptwomey

    I’m not sure if you’re a Chelsea fan Jack, but since they were strongly linked with him in the summer I’ve kept a close eye on this kid’s process. To say that he has fantastic potential would be an understatement…. but he is also a SERIOUS dick.

  • fitzpafp

    I’m pretty sure you are a United fan Jack, and so like me you’ve probably read all the reports Neymar is making a one-way trip to Old Trafford this summer. With Nani heading to Italy, it’ll be one dick out and another in (for lack of a better phrase…)

  • rajiv

    So now talented players such as neymar have to carry crap teams like Scotland so as not to embarrass them? sure, neymar has alot to learn hes only 19 but then how much more do adult Scottish fans have to learn to boo a boy for his youthful over exuberance? Oh wait, if a boy is from britain he is over exuberant, otherwise he is a diver, a cheat, a faker. Wow, Brits can talk and write and preach alot but for once it would be nice to see them practice the nonsense they spout. fact is Scotland we rent honest, nor hardworking. they were a buncha hard, lumbering fools who cant play soccer and made clumsy challenges. why should neymar make them look good by not falling? Please Scottish fans need to grow up first before asking anyone else to.

  • madridsta

    This is so amazing…when Christiano Ronaldo does his step overs then everybody claps…but a brazilian does what comes naturally to him they boo him…haha i think the real dicks are the haters cause they cant stand a better player to their own. This is football dont hate the player hate the game. Ronaldinho did not become great because he plays like Wayne Rooney he became great because he plays like Ronaldinho. Let the boys play

  • fitzpafp

    It’s not the stepovers, it’s the attitude, needless showboating to taunt and the arrogance of the player that thinks he’s learned it all already. Ronaldo is well known for this arrogant play at times, but he’s in the top two players in the world. Neymar is raw talent and he needs to keep his head down and not draw attention to himself for the wrong reasons if he wants to become one of the great players

  • Mike

    I take issue with the articles exaggerated attempts to put the player down. To say that a flashy haircut and flashy boots lead one to ‘question his commitment to the footballing side’ is simply ridiculous. Many Brazilian players come from poverty. When one shows talent, sponsors show interest and want any possible ‘next pele’ to wear the best equipment they can, to represent the brand. Furthermore, the mercurial vapours are one of the most commonly warn boots in football for quick players given their lightweight properties etc, and why should the colour chosen dictate commitment to his side? Your ‘old fashioned’ point is exactly that.

    Secondly, it is near impossible to say there were no racial undertones to the Scottish support – ethnic diversity arguably doesn’t exist in Scotland, while racist chants/taunts can potentially start especially when a team is being simply outclassed, as i’m sure you’d agree should you have actually watched the whole game. I think this proves what Neymar was on about: – and this is one fan – with crowd mentality as it is, it is highly possible he faced racial abuse.

    Ultimately, I understand your points about not wanting to jump the gun and, as so much of the media is fast to do, label a young star with terms such as ‘the new Pele’, ‘superstar’ and ‘wonderkid’. However, your condemning of his future and pigeonholing him as another flop is harsh, and reminiscent of the media whose negativity perhaps contributed to flops such as the Klébersons, Ricardinhos, and Denílsons. You rightly pointed towards a similarity between Neymar’s game and Ronaldo with the use of stepovers and excellent skill, however, when pointing out that he is currently one of the best players in the world, you fail to remember that he started as just another prodigy at Neymar’s age, yet worked hard to prove his ability in Europe. Why should Neymar not be given the same chance to prove himself, simply being painted with your cynical brush.

    Neymar has the potential to be great, and yes this is just ‘potential’ at this point, but lets not judge his future on his youthful exuberance or misjudging a penalty – the skill he used to win the penalty is the real brilliance, and to attempt the chip penalty takes great ambition and ability.


  • Really Sir

    How nice and proper of the author to leave out the not so small matter of a banana thrown on to the field by a white male. There was a little more than refined fans booing a showy Brazilian going on at the game in question. Neglecting this fact and the true picture of racism it alludes to is part of why this reality continues to manifest.