Footballers are plastered with labels and immersed in stereotypes. What you are and the public’s perception of you can easily be on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s a dynamic and volatile environment: stop to admire the view and you’ll be left behind. Football is ever-changing and things are taken at face value. Even more worryingly when things are scrutinized sometimes the depth of detail isn’t quite there.
Luis Suárez is a cheat, John Terry is a racist and Gareth Bale is a diver. No matter the brilliance of their ability, theses dark shadows will forever trail them, and be most visible in the brightest of lights. Another such player has been shackled by a similar label. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. Apparently a very petulant player.
Being Labelled: A Heavy Burden to Bear
There is no smoke without fire, of course, and to Neymar’s discredit he laid the tinder and sparked the flint. In September of 2010, his exuberance of youth turned on him. After his then coach, Dorival Junior, overlooked the fractious teenager to take a penalty, sparks flew. He threw a tantrum and Junior suspended him. But what Brazil’s Golden Boy wants, he gets – soon thereafter, his coach was sacked.
Little did he know that a dark cloud would hang heavy over his head and shroud him in a negative light. He was 18 then – but no matter, the damage is done. An insolent tantrum could potentially prove a perpetual deterrent to his career. He’s now crawling through the tight tunnel of football purgatory.
Off Field Problems
It’s not only off the field that the wicked world of football will haunt him. Standing at a wiry 5’9” and weighing a reported 60kg, Neymar would always succumb to the criticism of not having the physicality to play amongst Europe’s elite – where the game is much quicker; much more brutal. And people are quick to think that in an era of Tiki Taka inspired technique his Samba flair would prove futile in many a circumstance. The wrath of the media has been so harsh they make it seem like Ronaldinho didn’t strike awe into whoever gazed upon his dazzling trickery; as though the school-boy looking Oscar hasn’t been a breath of fresh air to the English game.
Having been called the world’s greatest, by arguably the best player to ever grace the game, to being compared to a pop sensation after a Twitter outburst by the ever-controversial Joey Barton, in which the Englishman said: “Neymar is the Justin Bieber of football. Brilliant on the old You Tube. Cat piss in reality…” it’s hard to place him, in context of the public’s eye. Beyond his atrocious use of the English language, may he have a point? Well… yes, if you’re a half-wit.
Here is a pretty impressive YouTube video of Neymar’s skills for you to enjoy:
The Boy Wonder
Before the World Cup in South Africa, the Brazilian public were captivated by a certain adolescent. Neymar had enthralled with his performances for Santos and had gathered a following – 14,000 strong. They had petitioned for him to go to Woza 2010 and announce his arrival to the world. You don’t attract that sort of attention and spark such a reaction if you aren’t good.
Make no mistake: Neymar is a scintillating star. He is an immense talent.
Having won the Puskas award from two nominations, one Balon d’Or nomination and having been called up thirty times by the Seleção, it’s clear he is beyond his years. A YouTube sensation that actually looks good when he’s not in an edited video.
Immature? Not A Chance
His professionalism ever since the preliminary years has been called into question. It’s been dragged through the mud. A young man with an even younger mind. People have enclosed him in a barrier and he’s fighting tooth and nail to liberation.
With his antics from past behaviour it may be warranted to an extent – but nobody wants to look past that. He’s put the most experienced of professionals to shame in one aspect of his character. He’s displayed admirably what players in his position scarcely do – loyalty. Despite interest from world giants it seems he’ll honour his current contract at Santos until just before the World Cup; elucidating his levelheadedness and ability to deliberate on opportunities.
He was said to have had a below par Olympics. What did people expect? – Fireworks from his boots? He scored a sublime free-kick, assisted a few goals and inspired the team. Just because he wasn’t at his flamboyant best, it doesn’t mean he had a bad tournament.
And that’s exactly where the problem was: people failed to see him develop a crucial side to his game – the industry. He was tracking back, pressing and played with more pragmatism. It was refreshing in a tactically nerdy way.
The Weight of a Nation
He’s got more than his Mohawk to bear on his young shoulders – he carries forward the fortunes of the Brazilian national team. He’s the most iconic figure in that yellow and blue and arguably the most talented in the squad. He’s undoubtedly the poster boy for the World Cup.
There is, however, something holding him back. It’s the generation in which he’s been placed. Brazil are clearly not the force football-lovers were acquainted with at the 2002 World Cup. There is a depletion in quality. This puts the golden-haired golden boy in a precarious position. He’s not surrounded by dumbfounding talent that would push him into a corner and not be as iridescent an icon as he is – on and off the field. But at the same time, he has no real inspiration and experience to draw on and learn from. Dependent on his temperament and approach it could help him grow as a player.
His country can either be a springboard or stumbling block.
Football has almost been bled dry of its integrity and an influx of money is being injected into its veins. The point being that the Beautiful Game has become a playground where financiers and investors roam to their heart’s content. The commercial world is sinking its claws deeper into the sport.
Footballers have become products and not players. Image is everything – everybody is a walking endorsement and a model. Not long before Puyol starts doing shampoo commercials. Neymar is an image, a breathing advertisement. He reportedly earns $25m from sponsors. Beyond that, he was ranked 7th on the footballers’ Rich List by France Football.
The style, the flair, the marketability: Neymar is the archetypal modern footballer. With the awareness of mind to keep him level headed and his abundance of talent, he’s only got a bright future ahead of him. People dismissing him after a couple of dull international performances may want to revaluate their stance on him.