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08 Jul 2018

Brazil: Will we ever be able to enjoy Neymar?

Brazil: Will we ever be able to enjoy Neymar?

The Brazilian superstar has unquestionable talent, but he is making himself a hard figure to enjoy.

Reuters/TORU HANAI

Belgium are through to the World Cup semi-final after a professional 2-1 win over Brazil. but the talking points revolve, as they always do, around one man only.

Neymar lived up to both sides of his legend in Kazan. In his possession, the ball zipped and zoomed as crowds jumped to their feet in anticipation. His close control was genuinely bewitching, with the Belgian defence crowding him in clumps.

Neymar the joyless figure

So why is he such a joyless figure? Why is it that, no matter how wondrous his skills or how telling his contributions, Neymar remains unloved?

The most obvious reason is the play-acting. Few players dive as regularly as the Paris Saint-Germain star, who twists and rolls on the turf when he receives even the slightest touch.

Reuters/TORU HANAI

Another reason is his attitude. Neymar's gurning face seems to burn with entitlement every time a decision goes against him. He is the selfish brat, arms-folded and scowling whenever someone else is in the limelight.

For the most part, that single-mindedness has been indulged. Neymar isn't the first star whose flaws have been swallowed because of their on-field contributions. If he performs, he can strut and preen all he wants.

The trouble is, however, that Neymar hasn't performed at this tournament. Too often, Brazil's play suffered because of his tendency to hold onto possession. Too often, he tried to do it all himself when his teammates were in better positions. 



Neymar the bottler

On the biggest night of his career in a competition that was supposed to be his, he bottled it.

It's a trend that echoes throughout his career. Neymar's face might be emblazoned on billboards across Rio, but he flunked out of Barcelona when the going got tough. 

Knowing he could never eclipse Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou, he sacrificed his sporting objectives for reasons that were purely egoistic. 

Reuters/MURAD SEZER

There was more money in Paris, that much was true, but there was more prestige too. The promise of a machine that was built entirely to serve him.

It's something that fits snugly. Neymar has always had a coterie of advisers whispering into his ear. He has always been someone for whom exceptions have been made. His every impulse catered to, his every wish fulfilled; he is more pop star than footballer, more brand than brilliance.

This, really, is the crux of the antipathy around Neymar. This is the modern football story; hyped from an early age, paraded in a thousand YouTube highlight reels, every iota of wonder and magic sucked out of him by a corporate machine determined to extract its pound of flesh. 

Neymar's brilliance is so difficult to enjoy because you know that every goal, every assist, every feint is monetized.

Brazil might be out of the World Cup, but the cameras will still follow their number ten. 

Neymar will always be a guaranteed headline even if those headlines relate less and less frequently to what he actually does on the football field.

Do you think Neymar will ever live up to the hype? Let us know below.