With all of the hype and anticipation surrounding his arrival at Barcelona, Neymar has had an underwhelming start to his career in Spanish football.
Such has been the Brazilian’s recent indifferent form that questions over his continued selection have been posed by the Spanish media to manager Tata Martino.
Two goals in the Catalans’ recent victory over Celta Vigo doesn’t disguise Neymar’s recent struggles. In the latest edition of ‘El Clasico’, the Brazilian was largely a passenger. Despite winning a penalty, the forward looked lightweight and indecisive in possession before being substituted in the 69th minute.
Not that the Brazilian seemingly has to worry about his place in the side. In a pre-match press conference before ‘El Clasico’, when asked about the player Martino responded: “I will reaffirm what I have said many times that Neymar is one of the top five players in the world.
“I don’t think it will be long before people stop talking about him like just another player because he isn’t,” the manager added.
Neymar’s arrival in European Football was eagerly anticipated. Publicly courted by most of Europe’s elite clubs for several seasons, the Brazilian eventually opted for a move to Barcelona. YouTube videos of Neymar’s various goals and skills for Santos divided opinion and prompted discussion before he had even arrived.
Comparisons with Real Madrid’s world record signing of Gareth Bale were inevitable. Both attackers arrived in Spanish football in the same window with huge reputations and for similarly astonishing fees. Despite all of this, both have also been forced to play second fiddle at their new clubs with Cristiano Ronaldo’s and Lionel Messi’s respective supremacy.
Scrutiny over Neymar’s performance at Barcelona has not been aided by this comparison. After a slow injury-affected start to the season, Bale has shone in the Spanish capital with an impressive ten goals and eleven assists in La Liga so far. Rather than displacing one another, the Welshman has managed to complement Ronaldo in Real Madrid’s attack.
Neymar’s statistics actually make for pretty good reading, having recorded nine goals and eight assists to this point. But the Brazilian has been outshone in his attacking output not just by Bale but several of his own team-mates. Alexis Sanchez has seventeen goals to his name whilst Pedro is not far behind with fourteen.
In the build-up to ‘El Clasico’, Sky Sports Guillem Balague represented the view of many of those in the Spanish press in expressing his surprise that Neymar had been selected ahead of Pedro.
It doesn’t bode well for one of the alleged top five players in the world that he has been convincingly outscored by a number of his own team-mates. Concerns still remain as to whether Messi and Neymar can effectively function together whilst still performing to their respective maximums.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, his exploits in his debut season have been overshadowed by the revelations of his transfer. Club President Sandro Rosell resigned as specifics were made public, a bemusing action considering the club’s insistence that they have done nothing wrong.
A tax fraud case has been launched launched as the true cost of the deal remains murky. An astonishing 40 million euros was paid out to Neymar’s parents due to their ownership of the forward. Numerous other add-ons totalling millions have also been revealed in the embarrassing scandal.
Club legend Johan Cruyff has slammed the transfer and claimed that “no-one is God when they are just 21 years old” in reference to the Brazilian’s reported salary. Cruyff also expressed his concern over Messi and Neymar’s ability to play alongside one another, stating: “you cannot have two captains on one boat.”
The Brazilian has also come under criticism for his actions off of the field. The wisdom of a day trip to Disneyland Paris with Thiago Silva at a time when the Brazilian was struggling for form was questioned in the media. The forward has acquired a playboy reputation since arriving in Spain through newspaper headlines and his frequent Instagram posts.
Ultimately at the age of just 22, there is still plenty of time for Neymar to grow into his superstar status at the Camp Nou. Unfortunately for the Brazilian however, his time at the club has been overshadowed by the murky revelations of his transfer and the superior form of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro.
As it stands, Neymar has failed to live up to the hype.