I like Neymar. Why? Because he has come to get international recognition based in South America unlike, for example, Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao, who have achieved their status as Europe-based players. And it was not overnight. As in previous cases, Neymar is the new Brazilian soccer great promise, annointed by Pele and courted by big clubs like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the latter getting his signature recently. Other modern Brazilian stars such as Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, like Messi and Falcao, caught the attention of audiences worldwide whilst playing abroad.
Neymar won the Copa Libertadores with Santos in 2011 and was voted Best South American Player that year and the next. Those who had not seen him had their chance to do so in the FIFA Club World Cup 2011, which final was precisely the Brazilian team against Messi and Pep Guardiola's Barcelona . It was his first test as an international superstar and could not overcome the powerful Blaugrana, the winners of the tournament. Half a year later, the Olympic Games went to London. Brazil has never won the gold medal in football, it is the only title missing from the "Seleção"'s cabinet, and obviously Neymar was marked as the one to finally bring the golden metal. It was not to be, either. Mexico beat the Brazilians in the final, who must now wait until the games at home (Rio 2016) to see if they could get that elusive prize.
Along came the signing for Barcelona for 57 million euros, with the fresh memories of these international "failures" that for many it indicates that the player is not ready to face the pressure of big stages. Some people question what his role will be in this scheme built around Lionel Messi. In Brazil, they also wondered if it was wise to sell him just a year before the World Cup at home. These are questions that are still left in the air, but Neymar has no time to lose and must respond to another international call: Being the star of the "Seleção" in the Confederations Cup. 4 goals and two assistances on his personal account, but on a collective level, he assumed the role of leader and eventually dominated the home tournament, being named Best Player in the final where they beat world champion Spain, which has in its ranks many of his future mates.
Three times lucky. Neymar fulfilled expectations at home. He was a prophet in his own land. Now he can leave for Catalan lands knowing that a cycle of his career is complete. We will now see if his status grows to the point of bringing the 6th World Cup to his beloved Brazil in 2014.
Personally, I wish Neymar the best. And I hope that many players in South America follow his steps. They grow here in their land, surrounded by their loved ones and people who help them selflessly. Messi's case is one in thousands. Not all young players do well in Europe. We want to see sooner rather than later, a Ballon D'Or 100% made in South America. It would be great news for this land of woes.
Lio is a much better player, but beware if the title of Camp Nou Idol is taken by the charismatic and media -savvy Neymar.