Before the Confederations Cup many questioned the ability of Neymar. Today, one day removed from Brazil’s spectacular 3-0 hammering of Spain, no one is uttering the word ‘over-rated’ when it comes to the 21 year old forward.
From start to finish of the quadrennial World Cup warm-up tournament, Neymar dazzled audiences with an impressive array of speed, skill and superhuman finishing ability. While he did not rip enough net to win the Golden Boot – that feat went to Fernando Torres, who scored five in the tournament (four of which came against minnows Tahiti) – Neymar’s four goals were tallied in stunning fashion.
From his 25 yard top-corner volley against Japan, to his 16 yard volley against Mexico, to his expertly placed 20 yard free-kick against Italy, to his roof-crashing thump against Spain in the final, Neymar was the hands-down winner of the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament.
Four goals. Two with the right foot. Two with the left foot. All absolute firecrackers.
It was the kind of complete performance that turned non-believers into disciples, haters into lovers. Although the good people of Barcelona must have woke up an awkward bunch today.
On one hand they will be disturbed by Spain’s performance.
The ruling class of world football may simply try to chalk the loss up to their side’s exhaustion from a never ending stream of top-level club and international football, but the truth is they legitimately should be worried as to how exposed tiki-taka has become over the last eight months (remember, the unraveling began in Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Barcelona last November, Bayern Munich’s 4-0 pumping this past April merely magnified it for everyone). Such a rationalization would be dismissive although given La Furia Roja‘s track record, acceptable.
On the other hand, fans in Barcelona will be reassured by their club’s decision to shell out a €57 million ($74.4m) transfer fee to bring Neymar to Camp Nou. They knew of his lightning pace, artistry on the ball and sniper-like finishing, but they worried, ad nauseam, that the Brazilian was too much of an individual and may not play well with others. Namely, Lionel Messi.
Those fears have been, for the meantime, put to bed as Neymar displayed an intricate understanding with the Seleção players around him, namely Fred and Oscar. If he can establish a similar kind of relationship with guys like Xavi, Messi and Andres Iniesta – and avoid the gormandizing tendencies that undid Zlatan Ibrahimovic while in Cataluña – the Blaugrana might just find themselves back atop the throne of Europe.