Dec 29, 2013

Neymar: Can He Live Up to the Hype?

Located near the bottom-right corner of Sao Paulo, Mogi das Cruzes is a beautiful place surrounded by a breathtaking coastline. The beaches are stunning and so is the love for football. It is also the birth-place of one of its most noteworthy residents - Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.

The Brazilian had a talent for the beautiful game at a very tender age and this was noticed by his father, Neymar da Silva who was a local footballer. Neymar Junior's rise to fame was sudden and as a result of his steadfast determination to achieve something. He joined Santos F.C. at the age of 11 (a grand achievement at that age!) in 2003 and the rest is history.
His achievements with Santos are manifold. He single-handedly brought the club glory as he propelled it to its first Copa Libertadores (Brazilian equivalent of the Champions League) victory since 1963 when Pele had done something similar for the club. Pele himself mentioned that Neymar's style of play was eerily similar to his.
In 2013, Neymar signed a contract with F.C. Barcelona for five years. After about 20 games with the club one can say that the youngster is doing extraordinarily well. He scored five goals coupled with an assist in his last two matches and that too in the absence of the clubs super-star Lionel Messi!
Of all the notable performances, his role in Brazil's successful outing in the Confederations Cup was the most noteworthy one. Having scored four breathtaking goals and providing a few assists, he spearheaded the SelecaƵ vanguard to a third consecutive title. His performance brought him extremely positive reviews and won him both the Bronze Boot and Golden Ball awards respectively.
Will he be able to emulate his Confederations Cup showing at the greatest stage of football? Can he propel his team to the pinnacle of footballing glory? Absolutely! His current record for Brazil is just spellbinding. Having played 47 matches he has scored 27 goals; this is amazing when we compare it with a player like Robinho who has scored 26 goals after playing 91 matches for his country. The stats say it all- Neymar is the one to watch at next year's World Cup.
A few doubts hang over his finishing but he has time to improve. But that is about the only thing which seems to be lacking in him. He has an amazing ability to dribble past five or six players (a rarity nowadays), his skills with the ball are a treat to the eyes (watching him perform one of his outlandish skills makes one go crazy) and finally, he has an ability to pull off amazing assists out of nowhere (he once threaded the ball through the legs of two defenders for Alexis Sanchez to score).
Legends never become legends overnight. It is their ability to overcome obstacles through sheer hard work and endurance that make them stars. Neymar is, no doubt, a rising star and he has tasted both success and defeat.
The Brazilian is under a lot of pressure, at such a young age, to win the World Cup for a sixth time for his country., labels Neymar as Brazil's biggest "X-Factor" at next year's World Cup. So, will he be able to live up to the overwhelming hype surrounding him and does he have the ability to rise up to his country's expectations? Of course he does! But it will come down to whether he can keep his cool and focus only on one objective. No one would like to see him be the Ronaldo of 1998. One important thing he has to keep in mind is that, the team is always greater than the individual. Play for the team and your chances of achieving glory increase two-fold - this is the secret mantra for winning World Cups!

First published: Yahoo voices, 23 December, 2013.

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