Neymar’s True Worth

Neymar’s True Worth

If you’re even slightly familiar with soccer, there’s a handful of players that sports news media make sure you have heard of — Neymar is most probably one of those players.

Currently a forward at Paris Saint-Germain, the 26-year-old Brazilian has been ranked among history’s greats, at club and national team level. Some even mention Pelé in the same conversation with him, drawing comparisons using examples as his dribbling, agility, speed, two-footed excellence, etc.

However, the facts have not been on his side.

While Ligue 1 has been dominated heavily by PSG in a very predictable fashion in recent years, the teams Champions League output continuously disappoints. It is only the second year in the competition for Neymar, but the team’s results leave room for improvement on individual and collective levels.

Neymar playing for Santos

At Santos, Neymar’s talent was showcased heavily on social media. His dribbling and juggling skills appeared as compilations or even gifs, making a strong case for a possible transaction towards Europe. Eventually, he was acquired by Barcelona in 2013 as reinforcement to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. By becoming a very important piece of an attacking trio that came to be known as MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar), he was able to even lift a UEFA Champions League title in 2015 as a Catalan.

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Neymar holding the 2015 UEFA Champions League trophy

In 2017, he was valued with an unthinkable price tag of €222 million by Paris Saint-Germain, beating the most expensive contract in history by €122 million. Since then, he’s played 30 official matches and has scored 28 goals. Although he missed the majority of the 2017-2018 season due to injury, he had the summer to look forward to with the World Cup starting in Russia.

For many reasons, this is where things started to go downhill.

While certain factors have been out of his control (like the ankle injury), Neymar has been facing leadership and personality inconsistencies, making his job in both the Brazilian and Parisian teams very difficult.

As the most expensive player in history, he held the captains band to lead the Brazilian national team on a road to redemption for the 2014 World Cup. The promotion didn’t sit well with Neymar, as he passed the honors of the captains armband to Thiago. On top of the inconsistent performances of the team, social media took notice of his trademark ‘drop-and-roll’ technique, which was heavily mocked — first with a hint of humor, but then with a punch of gravity.

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Neymar after the quarterfinal exit from the 2018 World Cup (Belgian side on background)

The national team was eventually eliminated in the quarterfinals, disappointing millions who expected Brazil to lift their sixth World Cup title. Although Neymar took a stab at redefining himself, especially with his seemingly redeemed self of not allowing the referee to make any bad calls against the opponent’s team, and avoiding any opportunities to dive, the team fell out, this time with a worse track record than the previous year.

In the end, you have to be positive even in times of defeat — Neymar was expected to learn from the experience, improve on his preference of diving, and actually concentrate on evolving PSG into a true Champions League competitor, rather than being content with the effortless victories in France that prove almost nothing in the eyes of the soccer world.

After the first matches of PSG and the one against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions league, it was easily noticeable that not only he hasn’t given up his excessive antics, but he has also reinforced his tendencies to slow down the pace of the matches, habit he picked up in the World Cup. As a winger, he’s expected to push the play either forward or towards the center; he does neither. As soon as he receives the ball, he waits for the pace of the game to fall and tries any of his Santos tricks on the defenders, either losing possession, or giving bad passes/crosses. He has never played like this before.

epa07031083 Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group C soccer match between Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain held at the Anfield in Liverpool, Britain, 18 September 2018. EPA/PETER POWELL
Neymar during Liverpool-PSG

In my opinion, this isn’t a sign of Neymar losing his athletic abilities. Instead, it is a sign of worry over the 19-year-old elephant in the locker rooms–Kylian Mbappé’s presence in Paris definitely complicates things. The fact that the 19-year-old brings in the World Cup trophy in the team, while Neymar sits empty-handed with only his 2015 Champions League medal on display, for which he’s thankful to Messi and Suarez. As Willy Sagnol stated, Neymar has to work for Mbappé, whether he likes it or not.

The French star already is the best player at PSG, and will most likely reach greater heights than Neymar — the fact has to be accepted by the Brazilian and he has to shape his productivity accordingly with that concept. Otherwise, all of the achievements with remain in Ligue 1, the importance of which is adamantly ignored by the rest of European soccer.

The pressure to achieve trophies is indeed high, and sometimes it requires sacrifices which affect reputation and relevance. Only a more mature personality is able to realize that, and Neymar has yet to achieve that level of seriousness. After all, his legacy has already been marked with the stamp of cheating and softness, overlooking his more valuable abilities as a versatile winger who carries the potential to be the best in the world.

Cover photo: goal.com
Santos photo: youtube.com
Barcelona photo: iltalehti.fi
PSG photo: metro.co.uk

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