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Neymar Jr is perhaps the most heavily criticised footballer of the modern era.
The Brazilian forward is the most technically gifted of the past decade but his theatrics both on and off the pitch have overshadowed his greatness.
Neymar encapsulates Brazilian football culture finding it extremely difficult to not entertain, or in some cases, upset football fans with his showmanship.
Ginga loosely refers to the fun, beautiful and free playing style that Brazilian football is so famously known for. Recent footballers who a renowned for incorporating this into their game are Neymar Jr, Ronaldinho, and Robinho.
Rainbow flicks, Rabona’s and no-look passes are common in conjunction with an elite dribbling skill-set. Strong challenges by frustrated opponents are a common result of this take. Simply indulging in Neymar’s highlight reels will give you a better understanding of his game.
However, there is much more to Neymar’s game than flashy moves that humiliate opposing defences. Neymar will rarely not orchestrate a win for his side and each game performs at the highest of levels. He boasts incredible goal and assist tallies that have won him a trophy cabinet worth bragging about.
At only 28 years of age and approaching his athletic prime, Neymar is already Brazil’s third highest ever goal scorer with 61 goals. He is behind only Ronaldo (62) and Pele (77).
During the last decade, he was commonly considered as the best player in the world bar Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who dominated world football during this time. This was during a period where he won UCL silverware with Barcelona at 23 years old and was far from showcasing his full potential.
If his progression as a top player hasn’t been affected by his performances is it fair to have such greatness tarnished by theatrics? Why is it that many considered Eden Hazard as the heir apparent to these two football greats when statistics heavily favour the Brazilian?
Neymar is infamous for his on-field theatrics and this was amplified in the 2018 FIFA World Cup when an incident against Mexico caused him to break down and roll along the touchline with bad intentions.
The superstar forward took the incident much too far in this instance but it is important to understand his intentions in most other situations. He was renowned for ‘diving’ much before this but once again his unique style draws hard challenges from frustrated defenders looking to avoid humiliation in front of millions of viewers.
Keeping the ball close to the feet allows a player to create situations where they can either bypass a defending player or draw a foul. It is difficult to pinpoint when this is right or wrong but it is the defender’s job to ensure that this type of player does not force a mistake out of them.
Off the pitch, Brazil’s golden boy has also drawn a lot of scrutiny for his run-ins with current club PSG. In expressing his desire to return to former club Barcelona, PSG set an incredible £273m asking price in an attempt to shy the Catalans away from making a concrete offer.
As a result, Neymar expressed his frustrations telling the club he will not play for them again. This unsurprisingly attracted a lot of stick from PSG fans who only by his brilliance have regained a soft spot for the star.
Relations with the club reached boiling point and a number of games were missed as a result.
All of this has without a doubt tarnished his excellence and this becomes evident when looking at the numbers.
Stats at time of 27th birthday
C. Ronaldo Neymar Jr
Games: 532 Games: 469
Goals: 272 Goals: 283
Assists: 107 Assists: 178
Trophies: 10 Trophies: 19
He also comes out well when compared to Hazard who was a booked by many to be the worlds best in Messi and Ronaldo’s decline.
E.Hazard (29 years old) Neymar Jr (28 years old)
Games: 668 Games: 501
Goals: 192 Goals: 305
Assists: 183 Assists: 192
Trophies: 8 Trophies: 20
Neymar is a born winner and it is exceptionally hard to knock his ability and sheer brilliance as a footballer. If you are able to excuse the madness of his theatrics and focus on his football you will find that he is indeed among the upper echelon of football royalty.
As forecasted when transferring to Barcelona as a 21-year-old Neymar can still surpass both Messi and Ronaldo in goals have all things go well. If you want to watch fun and beautiful football played by a very rare breed of player, than look no further.
To leave you, here is a link to the 2011 Puskas Award-winning goal. This prize is awarded to the winner of the goal of the season. A goal scored at just 19 years of age.