Neymar has been hailed for a number of years now as Brazil’s answer to Leo Messi, and certainly his performances for Santos have shown he is a very talented player. A disappointing performance against England on Wednesday night has led many in the British media to ask what all the hype is about. The same people were asking the same questions about Zlatan Ibrahimovic until they were firmly put in their place with his four goal performance for Sweden against England late last year, including his stunning overhead kick.
While it is too early to dismiss Neymar as an overhyped flop, there are a few worrying signs that are making me begin to wonder if Neymar will live up to the potential he has shown. A poor performance against England in a friendly match is not something that would concern me, however, on the few occasions he has had the chance to shine on the world stage he has fail to produce a performance you would expect of a truly world class player, none more so than the World Club Cup final versus Barcelona in 2011.
Young players are often over-hyped into something they cannot live up to, Freddy Adu the most obvious example. The best comparison would be two players who also came through at Santos and were widely dubbed as the future of Brazilian football, Robinho and Diego. While they have both go on to have good careers, there is no don’t those who saw them come through at Santos will be disappointed with the careers they have had in Europe. They are not even close to the level of Messi and Ronaldo which is the level they were expected to achieve.
Neymar has stayed in Brazil longer than these two did and time will tell if this will help or hinder him in the long term. The fact he has failed when playing against top teams outside of Brazil is a sign of concern. A player who sees himself as one of the top players in the world should be thriving with the opportunity to test and prove himself against the best. Neymar on several occasions has failed to do so, and also seems content in his comfort zone in the Brazilian league. When Neymar eventually makes the move to Europe it will be for big money to a major club. If I was going to be the club behind the massive transfer fee I would want to be very sure I knew the type of player I was purchasing, a talented youngster who can dominate against average opposition or a truly world-class player who can and will step up his performance level to play at the top level. I am increasingly thinking Neymar could be the former.