By Grey Whitebloom
For the price of a takeaway curry for every person in Chile, PSG netted themselves a spicy dish in the form of a tempestuous, flamboyant and overwhelmingly costly Brazilian forward, Neymar. Following the 26-year-old’s first season in the French capital I am questioning whether the Qatar Sports Investments group could have spent their money a bit more wisely.
In his first season in French football, the tricky winger netted a very impressive 19 goals in a mere 20 games having suffered a serious foot injury in February. However, this does not tell the full story, only 1 of those goals won the game for PSG, and that was the opener, at home to a Troyes who went on to suffer relegation.
“Each point Neymar earned PSG in the 2017/18 league campaign was worth £66 million.”
Furthermore, 12 of the 19 goals (63%) he scored didn’t put his team in front, level the score or lead to a win/draw, thus were completely meaningless. He has scored the second most meaningless goals in Ligue 1 (only Cavani’s 14 beats him), and the joint seventh most out of all the players in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
In a side that judges themselves by their performance in the Champions League, the fact that they were hauled out of the competition in the round of 16 in February fittingly marked the end of their season as well as Neymar’s.
“The Brazilian “Pin-up Boy””
In spite of Neymar’s lack of impact on PSG’s successful Ligue 1 victory and tilt at a European triumph, many people believe that the success of the Brazilian national team lies squarely at the young number 10’s door.
If we cast our minds back to the 2013 Confederations Cup, Brazil play the opening game against Japan and you-know-who scores an absolute peach to cement his stardom on the world stage, as this is at a time where Neymar is yet to leave his boyhood club Santos and join Barcelona.
The commentary of the first goal that Neymar scores completely sums up the expectation that the forward faced 5 years ago; “the young man with a nation’s weight on his shoulders.”
One year later and the pressure intensified as the real deal arrived in South America; the World Cup. With Brazil down 1-0, having conceded a Marcelo own goal, who is forced to step up and drag this shell of a side through against an unfancied, but undoubtedly talented Croatia side; Neymar, of course.
“The Seleção’s utter dependence on the (at the time) 21-year-old can be seen by one of the most stunning football results in history, Germany’s 7-1 demolition of the national team in the absence of Neymar.”
Admittedly, this score line was also influenced by the missing captain, Thiago Silva, but the whole ordeal with bringing out Neymar’s jersey during the national anthem would have been befitting if the player had tragically passed away, not been injured.
Now if we fast forward to the upcoming tournament in Russia, yet again Brazil are among the favourites to lift the famous trophy, and yet again, Neymar appears pivotal to their hopes. People often talk of “French arrogance”, but the Seleção’s coach Tite was displaying some of his own when he announced his starting XI in mid-February.
Despite Neymar’s inclusion in this early squad, one can see how confident the 5-time champions are about their chances at the upcoming tournament. This assurance is not unfounded either based on the players available for the reigning Olympic champions alongside Neymar.
Brazil’s Plan B
Even though Tite clearly has one of the strongest starting elevens for Russia ’18, some of the players he can fall back on should adversities arise are not half bad.
- Fernandinho – Premier League Champion with Manchester City
- Douglas Costa – Italian Domestic Double Winner with Juventus
- Thiago Silva – French Domestic Treble Winner with PSG
- Ederson – Premier League Champion with Manchester City
A Neymar-less Brazil
With the wide-man having suffered an injury at the start of the year, his national team has had to compete without the world’s most expensive player in two recent friendlies. What followed was an expected comfortable 3-0 victory against the hosts Russia. However, the yellow and green-clad players dispatched a strong Germany side 1-0 in Berlin with the Europeans not registering a shot on target until the 92nd minute. Brazil lined up almost exactly as Tite prophesied at the turn of the year, with the enigmatic Willian taking the injured Neymar’s place.
From this performance, and the strength in depth that this side has, one can see how far Brazil have come since the tournament on their home turf in terms of their dependence (or lack their of) upon Neymar.
However, Brazil’s most recent fixture was against perennial dark-horses Croatia and a Neymar-less Brazil were outplayed, failling to register a shot on target in the first half, despite having the majority of possession. Yet, when the 26-year-old graced the Anfield crowd with his presence, Brazil’s true quality won out and they eased to a 2-0 win with you-know-who on the score-sheet.
In conclusion, Neymar will always be a large part of any team he is at, be it club or country, and despite the lack of importance his goals were shown to carry in Ligue 1, he provides more for the Parisians. His transfer was a worldwide statement that PSG were to be taken seriously on the international stage. Concerning Brazil, the performance against Russia and Germany without Neymar cannot be discounted, by his inclusion against the Croats reinforces the idea that he will be out to claim that sixth star for the World Cup’s most successful side this summer.
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