Neymar Jr divides opinion in the footballing world. The 3rd best player in the world on his day, able to entertain and deliver on a regular basis. But also a player who sold out by moving to PSG, dives constantly and has become difficult to like. Aside from the outrageous natural skill. It’s a bit of both for me.
“I would have loved Neymar to come.“Lionel Messi on Neymar’s failed return to Barcelona in the summer
Every time I watch Neymar, I eagerly anticipate what he’s going to do with the ball. A casual rainbow flick or stunning curler into the top corner, he never disappoints. But like much of the football world, I’m still disappointed from his move to Paris almost 3 years ago now. Time flies, especially in the beautiful game.
The talent that didn’t reach his potential?
The Brazilian is a superb natural talent, I don’t have to emphasise that. The generational talent that broke through at Santos. The young Barcelona winger expected to take over from Lionel Messi. Now, the attacker approaching his prime and tearing up teams in France for fun. It genuinely doesn’t look like he’s trying sometimes and still dominating. A testament to both his ability and how poor Ligue 1 is as a league.
That’s what bothers me. I genuinely fear we could look back at Neymar’s career when he retires and ask ‘what could have been’. The ability and skill he has, hasn’t corresponded to what we expected. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t a failure or a flop by any means. Set to become Brazil’s all time top scorer soon, treble winner with Barcelona, a Puskas Award winner, 3rd in the 2015 Ballon d’Or. The list goes on for personal and team accolades.
But the Brazilian international was expected to be the heir to Messi and Ronaldo’s throne. The next player to dominate world football and become one of the all time greats. Now, he’s gone from being in Leo Messi’s shadow to Kylian Mbappe’s. Has the boat for a Ballon d’Or sailed for the electrifying forward? We’ll give you an in-depth analysis of Neymar Jr’s situation:
He’s stuck in Paris, for a while
It was made no secret that both the Blaugrana and Neymar wanted to reunited in the summer. Even a move to Real Madrid was rumoured. Winning countless Ligue 1 titles hasn’t made up for the loss of competition and maximising his potential in Spain. Being in the shadow of the greatest player of all time isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. It’s certainly better than scoring 20+ goals in France with your eyes closed. The Santos youth product knows he’s made a mistake. However he’s tied down to his PSG contract and they won’t let him go much less than the world record fee they paid for him. Or at least something similar.
It’s fair to say Neymar is stuck in Paris (not a bad city to be stuck in to be fair). Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann for €120 million in the summer, have a ridiculous wage bill and £800 million of debt. I don’t see a sensational return to Catalonia happening any time soon Also, with Los Blancos’ ridiculous £300 million overhaul in the summer gone by and they’re rumoured pursuit of Paul Pogba this summer for £150 million, I can’t see a team in world football that can afford the 27 year old.
So as I said, that leaves him in the French capital. The Parisiens have looked good this season. Of course the domestic dominance is a given now. But their attack of Mauro Icardi, Mbappe and Neymar has been devastating. Arguably the best front three in the world with 46 goals and 29 assists between them this season. Nothing can beat the MSN trio of 2014/15, but this isn’t too far off. The French giants have always fallen short in Europe’s biggest competition. But say if they do win it this season and Neymar can stay fit (more on that shortly), he could be in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or again. Well, if he can catch Mbappe first.
Neymar Jr – Cursed by injuries
The world’s most expensive player does deserve SOME sympathy though. His luck with injuries has been atrocious since leaving Spain. Even before then with the 2014 World Cup, it foreshadowed a future plagued with time on the sidelines. This article from ESPN in October shows how Neymar had missed half of PSG’s games from suspension and injury since his move in 2017. With an injury record like that, you really could make an argument for the world record move being a failure for both parties, let alone just the former striker. Commercially of course it’s been a roaring success in raising the profile of PSG. But his time out has meant their Champions League campaigns have always ended in disappointment.
If he gets brought down again in the next few games, he could be out for the rest of the season. That’s how injury prone he is. So even if PSG do progress in Europe, I’m not convinced Neymar will be playing in the latter stages or even their best player. Considering how many times he gets fouled a game, a season-defining injury just seems inevitable now. Sad but true.
Time running out for Neymar?
The final reason why a Ballon d’Or just seems so unlikely now is Neymar Jr’s age. Time is of the essence in football and, as aforementioned, he’s approaching his prime. It won’t be long before the once young prodigy hits 30 years old and starts to drop off with his output. It’s crazy because it still feels like he’s 23 or 24. That window to win it is closing quickly. Partly because of the brilliance of Ronaldo and Messi still dominating world football in their 30s. But also the move to PSG reducing the credibility of the PSG forward’s numbers.
I want Neymar to win a Ballon d’Or before he retires. He’s too good to through his whole career without being recognised as the best player in the world for at least one season. But considering the league he’s in, his record with injuries and how he’ll be 28 this year, it just looks unlikely. Could heroics at international level do it? He obviously missed the 2019 Copa America through injury and by the 2022 World Cup, he’ll be 32. It’s sad when a player can’t hit the heights widely expected of them to achieve. I fear, as harsh as it is in some regards, Neymar Jr will fall into that category.
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