By Ana Braccialli
The Brazilian and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) player Neymar turned 27 on Feb. 5 and will be completing 10 years since his first appearance in his professional career next month.
Neymar has always been thought of as the next big-time Brazilian soccer player. The one who is supposed to win World Cups and be at par with Pelé, Ronaldinho, Romário and Zico — big time players who created their legacy before their 20th birthday.
But, did Neymar fulfill his promise to become the best of best? Let’s start with his national team. In 2011, in Neymar’s first Copa America, he saw Santos, his Brazilian team, eliminated in the quarterfinals on penalties. His second Copa America lasted only 180 minutes for him because he got a red card, followed by a suspension for aggressively confronting the referee at the final whistle.
In 2014 he went to the World Cup carrying expectations of 180 million Brazilians to bring home the six-time championship, even though his conditioning and health was not 100 percent. Neymar led a group of players who are not at the same playing level as him, to come up short — resulting in a 7-1 humiliation against Germany — after suffering a broken vertebra.
Four years later, Neymar went to Russia with one more injury, full of attitude and hope. He started the tournament off well, doing everything that he could for the Brazilian team, but the World Cup came to an end after being defeated by Belgium 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
Neymar could have easily gone to Europe when he was 18-years-old, but he refused all proposals to stay and win the Copa Libertadores with Santos, the first one since Pelé. This is something that the majority of people forget about: he almost suffered a huge injury, losing a great amount of money, to stay and leave a legacy in his own country.
This can be reflected years later during the summer of 2017, when PSG made him the most expensive player of all times, trading Camp Nou for Parc des Princes.
Every move that Neymar makes is constantly criticised – even his decision to change his hairstyle could not escape their commentary. Many suggest that he lacked humbless since he received a raise of more than $40 million per season. Additionally, according to his criticizers, Neymar comes across as egocentric because he didn’t want to be in Messi’s shadow anymore.
With the “so well-talked” front line of Messi, Suárez and Neymar (MSN), Barcelona only won two Spanish championships and one Champions League during the four years that Neymar was there. He saw this as an opportunity to create his own path. Why not go to a team with great potential and make it as a powerhouse team?
Adding the fact that last season an injury kept him out of the round of 16 against Real Madrid. Today, once again, the same injury can steal one of his biggest dreams of winning the biggest soccer championship, the Champions League. However, people keep criticizing Neymar, saying that “he deserved it.”
A French radio station, called Radio Télévision Luxembourg (RTL), made a survey, where 84 percent of the interviewees said that Neymar asked for the injuries since he “provokes” the defenders with the way he plays soccer. Now, being talented, having attitude and creating new plays is “asking for it”? Ronaldinho would disagree with that, and people adore him. What he does outside of the field, shouldn’t be affected inside the field.
Speaking in outside of the field, a guy who is portrayed as egocentric, selfish, and “mediatic,” but at the same time creates and sponsors a huge complex in his hometown in Brazil, named Instituto Neymar Jr., with the goal of offering meals, health appointments, language classes and extracurricular activities for more than 2500 kids with low conditions, near where he grew up.
So, did Neymar fulfilled his hype? If that means to reach Pelé’s level, then, no(t) (yet). But, if that means, being the best player that he can be even with all the injuries that he has suffered, doesn’t hide when it is important, break records and affect people’s lives, then he’s getting there, in his own unique way.
Ana Braccialli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org