Soccer: Neymar's yet to convince

By Kevin Garside

Youngster faces up to the hype of being the next great Brazilian football player.

Neymar has been touted as the next big thing since he was 14. Photo / AP
Neymar has been touted as the next big thing since he was 14. Photo / AP

Is there a greater responsibility in the game than a yellow shirt with a No10 on the back?

Enshrined in the ethereal brilliance of Pele, the balletic power of Zico, the mercurial wizardry of Ronaldinho, the No10 of Brazil demands of the incumbent attributes that only a few possess.

It is the most significant shirt in soccer because it represents the game's highest values and, as often as not, has been worn by the defining player of the epoch.

This player brings not only technical gifts but mystery. He bewilders because he conceives the game in a different way to others. There is more to his contribution than keepie-uppies, though they are there, too, in glorious abundance.

He shapes a game, controls the tempo, sets the standard, scores the goals, and the hardest part of all, he carries on his back the hopes and dreams of the most successful football nation on earth.

The last Brazilian of this stature was, in the opinion of this observer, Ronaldinho, who at his peak brought a new aesthetic to Barcelona after helping Brazil to their last World Cup triumph of 2002.

Rivaldo and Ronaldo were the grandees of that time, exceptional players both, but in him a special light shone.

One month ago Barcelona paid £48 million ($92.4 million), ninth in the all-time list of transfer sums, for the next great Brazilian, or so they hope.

Neymar is 21, has never played football outside Brazil and is now a teammate of Leo Messi. The routing to Europe is the principal ambition for young Brazilian footballers. This is where the money is, where the great clubs are established in powerful national leagues.

Neymar has been touted as the next big thing since he was 14.

For those less than familiar with football subcultures or the domestic scene in Brazil, performances for the national side have had to suffice. And in that environment Neymar has yet to convince.

It might be that he is capable of walking in the lofty company of Messi and Andres Iniesta. But he might just as easily be the next Robinho, another who arrived in Europe from Brazil with a reputation that turned out to be at variance with output.

Neymar's challenge is even greater. He comes to a team built around a player in Pele's class, Messi, and that is not a claim made lightly, another in Iniesta who is as accomplished as any has a right to be.

Everyone benefits if Neymar proves worthy of the accolades that accompanied his journey to Europe, but how much easier would his assimilation have been had the world-beater claims followed the proof rather than preceded it?

Brazil's triumph at the Confederations Cup, and his role in it, cannot be seen as verification. To fulfil the claims made for him, Neymar has to get as close to Messi at the Nou Camp as makes no difference and usher Iniesta into the background. Good luck with that, son.

- Independent

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