This was supposed to be Neymar’s year after moving from FC Barcelona to PSG last summer
This was supposed to be Neymar’s year. After moving from Barcelona to PSG for a world-record fee of 222 million euros, the 26-year-old Brazilian was supposed to stake his claim as the best player in the world.
His arrival in Paris was supposed to herald European success for the Qatari owned club, and his dazzling skill was expected to fire Brazil to World Cup redemption in Russia 2018. However, none of those things happened, instead Neymar’s reputation across the world has suffered and his attitude has been questioned.
In the Champions League he was merely a passenger as PSG were eliminated by Real Madrid, and in Russia his arrogance and lack of discipline undermined his team, who were dumped out by Belgium in the quarter-finals.
At the same time, a player who is undoubtedly less talented than Neymar won the Golden Boot. Harry Kane showed the world just what can be achieved through hard-work, professionalism and dedication.
The Spurs forward keeps his head down and constantly focuses on improving himself as a player, whereas Neymar seems to rely on his natural skill and simply expect everything to go his way. In this article we take a look at how Neymar can change his attitudes and behaviour to improve as a player.
Recognise the team
Something that has become apparent since Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG is the Brazilian’s unwillingness to put the team first. He is not a player that is willing to sacrifice himself for the team, rather he expects the team to sacrifice themselves for him.
Last season he regularly ignored instructions from Unai Emery, knowing he didn’t have to carry out the Spaniards high-press tactics because he was financially invaluable to the club. Throughout chunks of the season he also flew out to his native Brazil to rest and relax whilst his team mates were slugging it out in the league.
In the Champions League and the World Cup his desire to win games by himself led him into many a cul-de-sac and mitigated the threat of his incredibly talented team mates.
In Russia, Willian – a player who had an excellent season for Chelsea – was often left isolated on the opposite wing as Neymar demanded all of the play went through him.
That’s in stark contrast to Harry Kane, who sacrificed himself for England and regularly played the role of a deep-lying target man to get the best out of Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling. Kane’s efforts helped his side to an unexpected semi-final, whereas Neymar’s resulted in his side leaving the tournament much earlier than expected.
Curtail the theatrics
When Cristiano Ronaldo first arrived at Old Trafford he was undoubtedly talented, but he wasn’t universally liked. The young Portuguese would regularly feign injury, dive for penalties and try to get opposition players sent off.
Then Sir Alex Ferguson gave him a little advice and said that he would not be loved if he carried on cheating, and he would not become the best player in the world if he continued wasting time with his on-pitch theatrics.
Unfortunately for Neymar, it seems that no-one has had this conversation with him. During the World Cup in Russia his theatrics and diving reached embarrassing new heights, and he was seemingly unaware that VAR meant his every dive and fall would be scrutinised by a TV audience of billions.
In Brazil, footballers are often seen as demi-Gods by the public, but Neymar’s diving and cheating seem to have put many of the country’s fans of him. Focusing on beating players and scoring goals would be a much better use of the 26-year-olds time than trying to get people sent off.
Ditch the playboy act
Brazilian players such as Edmundo and Ronaldinho have suffered from falling into the life of a playboy rather than a footballer and Neymar looks like repeating their mistakes. He is one of the wealthiest footballers in the world and makes no attempt to hide it, enjoying the finer things in life in a very public manner.
Barely three weeks after exiting the World Cup, Neymar entered the BSOP high-rollers poker tournament and flaunted his wealth to the world.
It’s not uncommon to find professional sports stars at a poker game, with Serena Williams and Connor McGregor amongst many others also trying their hand at it too.
For Neymar however, his poker face must have been good as he eventually finished sixth, so perhaps a career in cards would be an option if he fails to fulfil his footballing potential.
After defeat by Croatia in Russia, Harry Kane wasn’t entering a poker competition, instead he was taking a brief rest before returning to training with the aim of taking the Premier League golden boot back from Liverpool forward Mo Salah.
Focus on glory rather than money
One of the biggest criticisms of modern footballers is that they are more interested in money than football. This is something that causes a major disconnect between fans and players, and often results in players being labelled as mercenaries.
When Neymar moved to Barcelona from Brazilian side Santos he did so on the proviso that he would be very well compensated, and that his parents would receive 40 million euros from Barcelona as part of the deal.
Then in 2017 came his crowning moment when he moved to PSG for a reported 222 million euros. The deal was incredibly murky, with La Liga refusing to accept the initial transfer offer as they deemed it to breach financial fair play rules.
Eventually, Neymar got around the rules by triggering his own release clause with Barcelona.
Neymar needs to spend more time on developing his abilities than his bank balance, now more than ever. Any future money he earns will make no difference to his personal wealth as he is already flush with cash.
To be the world’s greatest Neymar first needs to be loved by the public, and he will never do that if he continues to put himself before his team.
Neymar would do well to follow the example of Cristiano Ronaldo and dedicate the rest of his career to continued improvement.