Neymar has come a long way in a short time: From winning the Puskas award for the best goal in a calendar year, to joining the best club in the world, to running riot versus Real Madrid, to becoming Brazil's shining new beacon of the new era -- The No.11 continues to rise and rise at an incredible rate.
Widely considered as a football legend at the tender age of 24, Neymar has constantly been overshadowed by bigger brands such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Having showed the world the class and finesse he possesses, there are many factions of the footballing world and pseudo pundits out there who shun the Brazilian and claim he isn’t the real deal that people make him out to be.
Here at 5 reasons why Neymar will become the world's best footballer:
1. Lionel Messi
Let's be clear: Lionel Messi is a notch above everyone else on this planet and no Barca fan would want to argue. Neymar was obviously bought to Barcelona for a whooping fee so that one day he may fill into the role Messi leaves behind.
In the brief period that Messi was injured, we saw Neymar fit into the role Messi plays quite perfectly. Neymar strived beyond belief for the few games when he was Barca’s focal point. His partnership with Suarez proved he is capable of linking up with a central striker with remarkable delicacy for a 24-year-old blooming star.
Contrary to what most believe, Neymar isn’t selfish at all. He created more chances than anyone in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season. Not much needs to be said about his dribbling ability: He averages 4.2 dribbles per game. Messi averages 3.6; Mahrez is at 3.4.
Fortunately for Barcelona, Messi seems to be going nowhere anytime soon. Though they are the best of friends and take equal share of the ball, unless Neymar is the No.1 man in his team, no one can assess the stratospheric standards that he alone may reach.
Paradoxically, one may say that it is Messi’s tutelage that has raised Neymar’s game to the next level. But a point must come when he will break free to create his own singular legacy, devoid of a backbone like Messi. Just like Ronaldinho passed over the chalice to Leo, the No.10 must pass it further down and back to another Brazilian.
Whether Neymar does it with Barca or another club remains to be seen. But one can’t argue that, while King Leo is still around, the throne belongs to him.
2. Unique style
Neymar can easily pass off as one of those Red Bull freestylers you find in Berlin or Amsterdam. The Santos stadium was his playground when he was a teenager. A rhythmic gymnast with a ball at his feet, he routinely would make a mockery of his opponents.
From an early age, Neymar tricks and flicks defined who he is. From becoming a teenage sensation at Santos, Neymar stayed true to his style even when he came to Camp Nou. Criticised for “disrespecting” his opponents with his cheeky twists and turns, Neymar elucidates why football is called the beautiful game. In the modern age of football where six packs and bulging biceps prove a players worth, a flimsy frame like Neymar has reached the top with his unique style.
For lack of a better word, Neymar plays fun football, all the while getting outstanding results. The last guy to samba his way into football folklore was Ronaldinho -- We must all agree that we need more guys like him.
3. Overlooked as a Complete Player
Unfortunately, the footballing fraternity fails to recognize Neymar as a complete footballer. This may be due to the fact that many can’t see beyond his freestyle mode of playing. Leaving the cheekiness of his feet aside, Neymar is as complete as anyone can be.
Though the definition of a complete footballer varies, Neymar possesses all the qualities of an all round footballer. As a dynamic attacking force Neymar dribbles, creates, assists and scores in equal number. His touch and control simply can’t be denied. He is able to shoot with both feet. His goal in the Champions League final was a left foot low drive. And not to mention his prowess at free kicks and heading ability as well.
Physicality in football today is judged more from the outside rather than from within. With his trendy mohawk and slim physique, Neymar looks like a mascot for a reptilian clan. Fortunately for him, reptiles have insane balance and stability. Last season Neymar was the most fouled player in Europe’s top 5 leagues suffering 3.8 fouls per game, more than double of Messi and Ronaldo. Quite clearly, defences are having problems keeping up with him.
The fouls that are drawn to Neymar are clear-cut hack-the-player-and-forget-the-ball challenges, more out of fear than anything else. Defenders are unable to keep pace with him or his salsa feet movement with the ball. In spite of being at the beaten end of ridiculous challenges, Neymar has successfully stayed fit for the whole season. He was there when Messi was injured, tearing apart defences. His shielding of the ball is spectacular, and when pushed or shoved off the ball, he tries to regain his balance in motion and continue.
Following in Messi’s footsteps, Neymar does his best to stay on his feet. Not to mention carrying the weight of the home nation at the World Cup with consummate ease. Or being slapped in the face and constantly physically pounded by Atletico Madrid bullies. Neymar has one several occasions kept his calm and looked the other way. For a rising star at 24, knowing that the world could be at your feet in a few years, Neymar's maturity and temperament are not given enough credit and perhaps never will.
The internet is the largest dumping ground for ridiculous stuff. Watching Neymar do keepie-uppies with Justin Beiber was as preposterous as Messi sporting a Shakespearean style beard. The world is changing for sure. I was torn between horrific laughter and silent applause: Beiber did show some eye-popping skill. But let’s be honest with ourselves, if Neymar wasn’t who we know him to be, he could easily pass of as a member of some boy-band.
The No.11's loose jogger style pants, his cuckoo hairstyle and its spunky colour, his wrist bands and jazzy apparel... Perhaps the world isn’t ready to take Neymar seriously just as yet.
Ronaldo flaunts his own class; his leather jackets, Lamborghinis and underwear brand cater to a large group of soccer fans. They familiarise with Ronaldo. Messi’s noble attitude and humble demeanour lend him a separate charm, one that great rulers and kings have exuded with supreme mastery. People want relate to Messi too. But the world just isn’t ready yet to accept Neymar for who he is outside the realm of what a footballer is suppose to be. He’s busy making friends with guys who are trolled mercilessly on the internet and, in the process, hindering his image as the world’s best.
It’s time for the world to wake up and see Neymar for who he really is -- and who he can become in years to come.
By Yohan Confectioner, columnist at Barcablog.