When Neymar’s deal to Barcelona was confirmed a few weeks ago it came as little surprise. Negotiations had been underway for a considerable amount of time and his destination appeared inevitable. Having spoken openly about his admiration for the Catalan giants and rumours circulating about supposed down payments already being agreed, the only question remaining was the total transfer fee.
The deal was finally confirmed on June 1st and the fee agreed upon was €57 million, which makes it the ninth largest deal ever done. Whilst many have viewed it as a fascinating and potentially brilliant signing the deal has been met with a great deal of criticism. Many consider the fee to be far too high for a player that has never played in a ‘proper’ league in Europe with others even questioning his ability.
Having completed his dream move to Barcelona there was then the simple matter of the Confederations Cup to compete in on home soil. Much was expected of the 21 year old talisman who now had the eyes of the entire world watching him and focusing solely upon him. How would he respond to the pressure? How would he cope with the physical toughness of some of his opponents? These were all questions that football fans the world over were asking and Neymar’s answers arrived nicely on cue.
A quite magnificent right footed volley from 20 yards, a left footed volley almost as sweetly taken, a thunderbolt of a free kick and a goal in the final to win the tournament was how he responded. Intermingled with some of these goals were also a few assists and some wonderful moments of individual and collective brilliance. Not bad for a young man just about to team up with Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
That is by no means the conclusive proof that Barcelona have pulled off the deal of the century. Or that it guarantees that Neymar will become one of the greatest ever players but it does show several traits that could go along way to aiding those possibilities.
Firstly it demonstrates his ability to produce his best under pressure. Whilst this is not the World Cup, it was still incredibly tough for Brazil to play at home and he contributed in every game. Playing for a club like Barcelona will be a step up from playing at Santos but he has experienced the pressure that goes with playing for a top side. He has played in the Copa Libertadores and now made 39 appearances for the Selecao.
Secondly, all four of the goals he scored demonstrated tremendous technical ability. The concentration and focus on the ball as it arrived was sensational and the first goal in particular was the perfect example of how to hit a volley. He got over the ball and followed through in the exact direction he intended it to go. His free kick was also wonderful and showed a man full of confidence in his own ability.
Lastly Neymar also appeared more aware of the ‘other’ work he needs to do. His tracking back and defending will need to improve if he is to be effective at Barcelona but he showed more willing than this author had seen in previous viewings. It seems that as well as having the precocious ability and fanfare that comes with it he still has a strong work ethic and wants to improve his all round game.
Yet even after these displays there still appears to be certain negativity towards his huge transfer fee from Santos. There is no doubt that transfer fees are often ludicrous and in complete contrast to the financial plight of many countries (and possibly even more pertinently considering Spain’s financial crises in recent years). However, I am yet to see anyone questioning Real Madrid supposedly bidding over £60 million for Gareth Bale. Why is that deemed a just transfer fee when Neymar’s causes such widespread uproar?
Neymar certainly appears to be the next prodigious talent coming through and we should all feel excited about watching him develop at Barcelona. The hold up in the transfer fee because of the Brazilian’s various ‘third and fourth parties’ is an ugly side to the game but one that exists more and more.
There was a time, not too long ago, that young promising players were held up as an example of what could happen if you had talent and worked hard. Large sums of money have always exchanged hands for proven or potential quality and nothing has changed. The modern football world though is now more about global audiences and merchandise revenues than it is about the football. Perhaps not for the majority of us anyway but the people who govern our game and run it seem less interested in what actually happens on the pitch anymore.
Whether you agree of disagree about Neymar’s valuation something far more important is happening here. A very talented young Brazilian player is joining one of the biggest clubs in World football where he could potentially emerge as one of the best players in the planet in the not too distant future.
Witnessing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the last couple of years has given everyone great pleasure and having the next generation of potential stars like Neymar coming through is extremely exciting. Rather than focusing on the money spent on acquiring his services let us instead wonder at his potential; surely a better way to look at it.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)