For years Brazilian wonderkid Neymar has been touted as being the ‘next great football player.’ Many even suggest that he will become Messi’s main rival for the mantle of ‘world’s best player’ over the next ten years. Statements like that however are common commodities, in an internet dominated planet earth obsessed with sighting the next exciting young football talent. Above all else statements such as those mentioned above consistently turn out to be disappointingly premature.
So far throughout his career Neymar has been shielded by the comforting blanket of his homeland in Brazil. A country where many have shown extreme pedigree domestically but, only a select cluster of players have managed to really reach ‘superstar’ levels when moving to another continent.
Last week at Wembley provided Neymar with a high profile stage to further showcase his incredible reputation. Irrelevant of Brazil’s match up with England being a friendly, in conditions most likely un-fancied to the majority of ‘Big Phil’s’ men, he was bitterly disappointing. Instead he was outshone by England and Arsenal’s genuine bright spark Jack Wilshere.
Even in Brazil his career thus far has been less than mind blowing. Yes, 54 goals in 102 appearances for Santos is an impressive record of a goal in just under every 2 games, but it isn’t startling. At a younger age Brazilian Ronaldo was averaging a goal a game for Cruzeiro. Still at a younger age Ronaldo scored 42 goals in 46 games for PSV in the Dutch league, and at the same age as Neymar he had scored 34 goals in 37 games for Spanish giants Barcelona.
We all know what Ronaldo went onto achieve in his career, yet when it comes to discussions concerning ‘who is the greatest football player ever’ his name would not top the list. Instead it would most likely be a straight fight between Pele, Maradona, and most recently Messi.
Pele is of course the most successful league goal scorer in the world with 541 league goals. In total Pele scored 1281 in 1363 games. In many football camps Pele top’s the list as the ‘worlds greatest ever footballer,’ but those that think that are idiots blinded solely by the glitter of goals. Yes, he won 3 World Cup’s for wonderfully talented Brazil teams but, he didn’t prove himself outside of his native homeland. That alone is why Pele was not the greatest.
At only 25 years old Lionel Messi has scored an incredible 204 goals in 237 games for Barcelona. He has won numerous titles both collectively and individually and is well on his way to becoming the ‘greatest.’ However, the one black mark that always comes up when discussing such an issue is the fact that Messi has yet to win a World Cup. Regardless of what else he does from now until he retires, if he does not add a World Cup to his collection he cannot be crowned as the ‘greatest.’
I don’t care what anyone else says, the greatest of all remains Diego Maradona. He scored 258 goals in 492 games throughout his career, not as an out and out striker. By Neymar’s age he had scored 115 goals in 167 games for Argentinos Juniors. But those statistics are not what made Maradona great, nor the sublime wizardry that he held over a football. It was the fact that he single-handedly won the equivalent of the Champions League for Napoli, as well as two league titles, and also lifted the World Cup forArgentina, against the odds, in 1986.
There is a very high chance that Neymar will win World Cup’s throughout his career, probably even more so than Messi with Argentina. Playing for Brazil that is almost a given, but winning World Cup’s would not be enough for Neymar to be crowned as the ‘greatest’ either. Ronaldo has won World Cup’s and was outscoring Neymar by miles at his age, yet even he would struggle to make it into the top 5 of a ‘greatest ever’ poll. Pele made it purely because of his goal scoring record; Neymar will get nowhere near that mark throughout his career even if he did stay in Brazil.
It is likely that Neymar will eventually make the move to one of Europe’s giants for an obscene amount of money. It is almost certain not to happen though until after the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, where Neymar may indeed pick up his first World Cup medal.
Until he moves to Europe and proves that he can score goals and lift titles consistently his massive reputation in his homeland means nothing. If Andy Cole spent his entire career playing in Brazil, and was eligible to represent the national team, he may have been able to rival Pele’s amazing goal scoring record.
That is why Pele was overrated. Neymar needs to prove himself outside of the comfort of his homeland, otherwise he will remain exactly what he is, an overrated internet phenomenon.
image: © simonw92