Neymar played 90 minutes on Thursday night as Santos drew 2-2 with Mogi Mirim at home in the Paulista Série A1 competition. It was Neymar’s third game in six days after facing Russia on Monday night at Stamford Bridge and Italy on Friday in Geneva. The Santos forward impressed in the 2-2 draw with Italy but was criticized for his performance against Fabio Capello’s Russia, as the Seleção needed a 90th minute equaliser from Fred to draw 1-1.
Thursday night’s Campeonato Paulista match, Neymar failed to find the net but was involved in both Santástico’s goals in the 2-2 draw. Despite all his travels with Brazil, the silky forward failed to show any signs of jetlag, as he put in a typically influential performance for Santos. He assisted their first goal with a lovely cushioned pass, and grabbed the ‘second assist’ for their second goal, releasing Montillo who fed Giva to score.
The striker, labeled as the new Pele, was desperately unlucky not to win the game for his team. He had three mesmerising efforts late on that nearly won the game, the first after stunning control from over his shoulder, he performed a trademark step-over before shifting inside but unfortunately curled over the bar.
His next effort was his best of the night, fouled on the edge of the area, he picked himself up to fire a fantastic effort from 20-yards-out but it smashed off the crossbar. Then in the 89th minute, Neymar nearly conjured up some magic, he chested a deep cross inside the area before attempting an over-head kick, unfortunately it was blocked by a defender to leave Neymar and Santos disappointed.
After facing England in February, the 21-year-old faced criticism from the outspoken Joey Barton, and he was on the receiving end again on Monday night, being called “cat piss” by the Marseille loanee. As someone who has watched the Brazilian wonderkid numerous times, I’m sure he will fulfill his unbelievable potential. Can he be as good as Lionel Messi?
Well, it’s too early to say, but for football pundits, players and fans to be labeling the Brazilian a flop – at just 21-years-old – is outrageous. How good was Messi when he was 21? Well, looking at his international statistics, he had scored eight goals in 21 international matches for Argentina up to his 21st birthday. Neymar’s record reads even better, before his 21st birthday (5th February this year) he had played 27 matches and scored 17 goals.
Nobody would dare call Messi a flop now and Neymar doesn’t deserve to be classed either. Barney Ronay – Guardian sports writer – described Neymar as “one of those overseas fantasistas” and he is 100% right. Until Neymar (and I pray he doesn’t) knocks England out of the World Cup, like Cristiano Ronaldo has done, like Ronaldinho has and like that brilliant Bastian Schweinsteiger inspired Germany team did, he will be ‘overrated’.
I’m sure many felt Messi wasn’t that special until the 2009 Champions League final, where he and Barcelona defeated Manchester United. The Brazilian league isn’t the strongest in the world, especially defensively, but Neymar is an incredible player. He has so many attributes superior to most players and with more experience he will use these more wisely. He has a phenomenal touch; he demonstrates this in all his matches, majestically controlling the ball like his boots have magnets in them. And the skills he can do (like you’ve probably seen on youtube) are immense, full of flare and excitement that you would pay money to watch.
The goal he scored against Flamengo in 2011 was sensational. I believe eventually, in a few years time, Neymar will be doing that on a regular basis like the two best players in the world do at the moment. Obviously, he needs to move to Europe. There he can showcase his ability on the screens of Sky Sports, assuming he joins Barcelona or Real Madrid but patience is needed. A star isn’t born over night whatever people believe and he does have the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders. He is seen as Brazil’s one truly world-class attacking player, and is expected to win them the World Cup. I don’t think he’ll be able to do that but a strong performance and he may get the recognition he deserves.
Last year he scored a ridiculous 55 goals, anybody that scores that amount of goals in a calendar year deserves praise. Don’t be surprised if after the 2014 World Cup, Neymar is exciting the fans at the Camp Nou or the Santiago Bernabeu with tricks, flicks, and sensational goals. Be part of the minority who have faith in the Brazilian to be one of the best players in the world, because eventually the majority who believe he will be a flop, will be proven wrong.