A Rise Too Fast For The Game?
I read an article recently and one of the words stated that Neymar is the third best player in the world after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. A sentiment heard before in world football or from maybe just the Brazilian region, as they seek a player looking to challenge the global dominance of the El Classico pair. Neymar at the age of 20 has dazzled, created headlines and became a YouTube sensation, you can YouTube Neymar and witness skills and tricks performed by very few, goals that would leave you in utter amazement.
His development at Santos has been steady and fairly rapid, already clocking up 121 goals in 199 appearances, a truly impressive feat. Since his breakthrough season in 2010, Neymar has taken it upon himself to become the talisman for his country as well as his club; another impressive record has seen him score 16 goals in 25 appearances. But and I will say a huge but, he has yet to embrace the big stage. 121 goals in South America although hugely impressive would look even better on European soil. 16 goals in 25 appearances for country would take your breath away if it was backed up by goals being scored against the likes of Spain and Italy.
The general consensus amongst South American journalists is that the Santos forward is just as good as Lionel Messi or just strides behind, which is fairly inaccurate. In Neymar’s argument I’d much rather compare him to his peers of a similar age and even then I would say that Neymar is on a par or slightly inferior. Names like Eden Hazard, although a year older than Neymar, Gotze, Isco, El Shaarawy, Wilshere and Iker Muniain have all been hugely impressive during their early stages of what appears to be a long and healthy career at the top of the footballing world.
What all players mentioned share in common is a breakthrough season which has guided their side to the summit of their domestic leagues or displayed an impressive individual performance against a tougher opposition. Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard both enjoyed great seasons in 2010-2011 as they became key figures to their sides domestic triumphs in the German and French league, despite not being the favourites, with the latter enjoying a more than inspiring start to his Premier League career. Isco has shun in his sides first Champions League outing, El Shaarawy has taken it upon himself to become the main man at Milan, Muniain showcased his incredible talent at Old Trafford earlier this year and let’s not forget about Wilshere’s mature display against Xavi and Iniesta at Barcelona.
Neymar has yet to have a performance or performances of this magnitude whilst playing with a team like Santos. Despite his greatest attempts throughout this seasons Serie A campaign, Santos are consigned to a mid-table finish this season and have been a mid table side since Neymar’s emergence on the world stage. This is not a criticism of Neymar I have seen him play a great number of times and get a thrill of seeing him play football given the hype surrounding someone so young. His performance for Brazil in both Copa America and the Olympics were both snippets of how great Neymar can become. But even then was he really that amazing?
I am only questioning this because of the last great import from Brazil was none other than a former Santos icon Robinho and yet we look at him now and still talk of his potential, or contemplate how good he could have become. Remember prior to his move to Real Madrid the then young Brazilian was being dubbed as the new Pele, the next best player in the world, even whilst at Madrid fans of Los Bloncos would say you have Messi we have Robinho. Look how that turned out, the team that spoke less of their talent ended up producing the greatest player of our generation and to some of all time, whilst Robinho is still showing glimpses of his quality at AC Milan after a disappointing tenure in the Premier League.
This is not a rant, this is merely an observation of mine that we should not always listen to the subjective views of past legends and icons in the game to dictate how good a player is or can become. In other words Pele’s words and glorifications of Neymar are just that until he produces it on the big stage whether that be in Brazil 2014 or for Barcelona when his protracted deal is indeed completed. In the mean time we’ll just have to sit and wonder whether we are witnessing the progression of the next great thing in world football or the next Robinho.
Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)