For a few moments, put aside your problems with how Neymar arrived in Barcelona and his growing pains as an embellisher under the microscope in Spain and on the international scene.
Pretend that the first you heard of Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior was prior to this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, and that you watched him effectively lead his country as a 22-year-old.
He soared in the tournament, scoring twice against Croatia, twice again against Cameroon and adding an assist before being brutally fouled and injured by Juan Zuniga and Colombia.
Now you’re watching him for Barcelona, a club that looked relatively disorganized last season. Some called the team’s golden era dead in the water. Their answer? Still yet to concede a goal in La Liga play after today’s 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Neymar scored again in the win, and now has seven goals in six La Liga matches. Barca is 5W-1D-0L to start the season. Throw in his goal against PSG midweek in the UEFA Champions League, and he is showing the class of a pure finisher.
In fact, it feels safe to say that while his superstar was born a bit prematurely, we’re finally seeing the wattage of his promise realized.
Neymar is one of the best players in the world. For real this time.
Pele famously said that Brazil was lacking a “big star” for the World Cup last summer, and all Neymar did was go and say, “What about this, Mr. Nascimento?”
Since opening the World Cup with a brace against Croatia, Neymar has put up these fantastic statistics for both club and country:
Games played: 15
Shots on target: 55
Yes. His teams have lost just once, and that was the 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain this week. Toss in the World Cup warm-ups against Panama and Serbia, as well as the draw against Atletico to end the La Liga season, and Neymar had gone since April 16 — a loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup — since losing a single game.
It’s easy to forget that last season was Neymar adjusting to life in a new country for the first time in his life. His petulant moves, when they came, were exaggerated because he was under the microscope. Fifteen goals in 41 games is not a bad first season… unless you’re trying to be a superstar on one of the world’s biggest teams.
But eight goals in eight matches to start this season? Not bad. Can he keep it up? Depends if you think he’s arrived.
And I think we’re just seeing the beginning.