Is Neymar’s Hype Getting Too Big?

Brazil and Santos winger Neymar has been at the center of transfer speculation for the last few years. Some have said that his eventual move to Barcelona is one of football’s worst kept secrets and I’m inclined to agree with that statement. We all know that although only 21 years old, Neymar’s international fame has long outgrown the Campeonato Brasileiro and Santos.

Brazil and Santos winger Neymar is one of the world's brightest talents.

Brazil and Santos winger Neymar is one of the world’s brightest talents.

Now that David Beckham, the last footballer who it could be argued was more famous for his underwear ads and marrying Posh Spice than his talent on the pitch, has retired, the door has been opened for Neymar to become the international superstar that the hype surrounding his move to Europe is leading him towards.

Don’t mistake this as a knock against Neymar’s playing ability. It is clear as day that with a continued push in the right direction, we’ll be talking about him for the next few decades for his ability on the ball, the flashy dribbles and the even fancier finishes that he has become known for in his surprisingly short senior career. Remember that it was only four years ago that he burst onto the scene. Even Santos knew he’d be something special when they paid 1 million reals to keep him at the club after he passed a trial with Real Madrid when he was 14.

The prospect of Neymar, who Pele described as the best player in the world, linking up with Lionel Messi is something that would create a media maelstrom around the world. How many football fans would pass up the opportunity to see those two on the same pitch playing together?

And this is when you have to ask yourself if Neymar is ready for the lofty expectations that will follow his move to whatever club gets his signature in the near future.

He is an easy player to market, as many Brazilian football stars are. They play with flair and style while making it seem like they are having the time of their life while doing it. Take a trip over to YouTube and look up Neymar’s celebrations after goals. He’s all you would expect of a 21-year-old professional footballer, not yet having the cynical attitude that comes as we grow older, until he nutmegs you on the way to another goal and it looks like he’s more seasoned than a player ten years older.

However, the burden of carrying the superstar tag has destroyed its fair share of rare talents. No one thinks Neymar is Messi’s heir apparent. In terms of age, they are contemporaries, only four years apart. With sports science these days, Neymar will be well into his 30s by the time Messi hangs them up. Instead, it is expected that Neymar will be on Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s level in terms of international appeal. Those players that even people who don’t watch football know about.

Mario Balotelli is a good example of what happens when a player gets too much fame and hype too quickly. He may have had his moments at Inter but his antics at Manchester City were more often than not well out of the realm of the excuse “Oh, it’s because he’s young.” Fortunately, Balotelli has performed extremely well since moving back to Italy.

There is similar risks in Neymar’s situation. You’re taking someone who is already quite rich and has shown he has a care-free attitude and bringing to football’s biggest stage in the world where you will give him more money and expect him to become ruthless in terms of winning games. No disrespect to Santos, but they aren’t winning as many matches as Barcelona nor do they currently have the winning attitude that the Catalan side has.

No one wants to see Neymar flame out before his time has come but as his hype grows everyday we have to admit that this is a real possibility. The hounds will be out if he moves to Barcelona and doesn’t finish second in scoring in La Liga to Lionel Messi.They’ll knock him if he takes longer than a game or two to acclimate himself to a new country, a new league and a new team. He’ll be under a microscope that not even Messi has had to experience.

I think we need to take a moment and remember that we are talking about a 21-year-old kid despite all the talent he has. At a better club, he will progress and likely cement himself as one of the game’s great but we have to let it happen naturally. So calm down, we have at least ten more years of him playing at the top.

 

Three Reasons Why the CONCACAF Champions League is a Failure

Hands up, I was not aware CONCACAF’s Champions League was already in the quarterfinals stage. It pretty much just sprung up on me this morning while I was watching ESPN and they happened to mention that the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS club to beat a Mexican side in the competition. Kudos to the Sounders, but the novelty was quickly lost on me.

If you are not familiar with the CONCACAF Champions Leauge, here’s the rundown. It’s a 24-team tournament with 4 clubs coming from Mexico and the United States; 2 from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama; and 1 from Canada, Nicaragua and Belize. Three clubs qualify from the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship. The rest is pretty similar to UEFA’s Champion League.

The Seattle Sounders made history in the CONCACAF Champions League, but does anyone care?

The Seattle Sounders made history in the CONCACAF Champions League, but does anyone care?

That being said, here are five reasons I think the CONCACAF Champions League is a massive failure.

1. There aren’t enough premiere clubs.

Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Can anyone name 2 clubs from the countries which have two entrants in this competition without looking on Wikipedia or Google? I’m sure there are quality sides in those countries but there’s a reason that only Mexican clubs have won this tournament since it changed to the “Champions League” format in 2008. You’d be better served to cut the tournament down to 8 clubs and jump straight into knockout rounds.

2. The scheduling is poor.

I’m not sure why it is done the way it is, but the competition begins in August which coincides with the beginning of Liga MX’s apertura but comes right in the middle of the MLS’ season. The group stages run until October when there is a five-month break before the knockout rounds begin. It’s hard to keep up with things that are separated by five months. It doesn’t help that one of the two top leagues in the competition, the MLS, does not play for most of those five months.

3. No one cares enough to go to the games.

In the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF, there are four teams that have a respectable average attendance — UANL Tigres, Real Salt Lake, CF Monterrey and Houston Dynamo. It’s a crapshoot after that. Six of the clubs averaged fewer than 1,000 fans at their home fixtures. Watching a game in an empty stadium is not entertaining and I could imagine going to a game in an empty stadium isn’t that fun either. Maybe if they said all the games were played behind closed doors, it wouldn’t seem so bad.

Possible Summer Targets for Manchester City Pt. 2

Read part one here.

Edison Cavani

Edison Cavani is one of the most sought after players in Europe right now and that’s exactly why I think Manchester City should pass on making a move for the Uruguayan striker who currently plays for Napoli.

Napoli knows clubs what Cavani and they know a lot of those clubs have a lot of money so his price tag is outrageous. Don’t get me wrong, Cavani is a game changer, the type of striker that you put on the pitch and he immediately makes a difference. His ability to put the ball into the back of the net is on par with the best in the world and he is selfish enough to make chances from himself.

All that being said, City can get two or three quality players for the price Napoli is asking for Cavani. There are cheaper strikers out there.

Radamel Falcao

Falcao has been linked with every big money club in the world. It doesn’t help that some call him the best pure number 9 right now. Like Cavani, the problem with City pursuing Falcao is that it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get him to the Etihad. With Financial Fair Play on the horizon, the last thing City needs to do is break the bank to reinforce one of the strongest positions on their team.

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El Tigre will likely be leaving Atletico Madrid in the summer and Manchester City may be one of his landing spots.

The Colombian also known as El Tigre can do it all and do it all well. He’s garnered a reputation for leading his club to Europa League titles but Manchester City is aiming a little higher than winning the Europa League.

Falcao would be an instant improvement to any club, but City’s current striker situation does not demand they go out and spend €80 million on a forward even if the last forward we got from Atletico Madrid led us to a Premier League championships.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas, currently playing for Sevilla FC in La Liga, has been getting a lot of spin in the rumor mill recently, connecting him with a move to Manchester City. Again, this is a move that I don’t think City should make.

Don’t get me wrong, Navas is a great player and would do well for most clubs but I don’t know where he fits into City’s future plans with a player like Isco also likely to move from his club this summer. Navas will be 28 soon and the Blues need to look towards the future with their purchases.

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is another player who has recently begun to be linked with a move to the Etihad. The 24-year-old Chilean striker seems to be angling for a way out of the Nou Camp and clubs are lining up to get him.

Known for his speed, dribbling and creativity with the ball, he could wreak havoc on the most disciplined defenses as he has shown many times during his time with Barcelona. Pairing him with Sergio Aguero could be both positive and negative as the two players have very similar play styles.

However, if City were to go out and get a forward, Sanchez should be closer to the top of the list as he won’t cost an arm and a leg to get.

Christian Eriksen

I know Christian Eriksen has been linked with a move to the other side of Manchester more often than he has been with Manchester City, but damn it if there is a player City needs to break the bank on, it is him. The Ajax product recently put clubs on alert when he refused to sign a contract extension with the club, possibly angling for a move to England in the summer.

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Bringing Christian Eriksen to the Etihad could set Manchester City up for a long run at the top of the Premier League.

Roberto Mancini and the City technical staff got an up close look at how talented this guy is during City’s two games against Ajax in the group stage of this year’s Champions League. He’s already a great midfielder and he’s only 21 years old. Just take a look at the hundreds of highlight videos on YouTube.

Eriksen is creative enough to operate in David Silva’s stead or alongside the Spaniard. His ability to put corners into threatening positions would work wonders for players like Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Yaya Toure or Javi Garcia. The possibilities are endless.

Mauro Icardi

Sampdoria’s Mauro Icardi has been getting plenty of looks from Manchester City. The Argentine striker is the Serie A club’s leading scorer at the tender age of 20 years old. Roberto Mancini, who played for Sampdoria for 15 years, personally went down to Italy to watch him play. That has to account for something.

However, I think €13 million is a little too steep for a player this young.

Neymar

Come on… you knew he’d be here eventually. If a club has the cash, then they will be linked with potentially the next great player from Brazil. He’s been linked for years with a move to Barcelona but I think the right people could convince him that going to England would be better for his career.

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Neymar to Manchester City may be a pipe dream, but don’t rule it out until his transfer saga is over.

Like some of the other players on this list, there is no need to talk about how good Neymar really is. His skill with the ball at his feet is second to none and his clinical finishing makes you wonder how is it possible for someone so young to be so good.

Obviously, his price tag is high but with his contract running out Santos may be forced to sell him on before he leaves for free. I’m inclined to believe that his original 2014 timeline for a move to Europe will actually be the summer of 2013.

Marquinhos

Marquinhos has been making the headlines a lot for his near-flawless play for Roma this season. It’s not shocking for a new defender to come into a team and play well, but it is shocking for a player who is two months shy of his 19th birthday to be doing what Marquinhos has done.

His ability to read the game is better than some defenders ten years his senior. He’s the type of player that cleans up mistakes before they turn into goals, something that he has done on more than a few occasions this season. With Joleon Lescott possibly on his way out, Marquinhos can come in and give Manchester City two great young centerbacks to build for the future.

Jetro Willems

Jetro Willems has previously been linked with a move to Manchester United as they tabled a €10 million bid for the young Dutch left back, but I think the guys in blue should make a move for him this summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson called him the “next Patrice Evra.” Well, some called Matija Nastasic the “next Nemanja Vidic” so it’s only right that Manchester City gets another young player who has been compared to some old guy currently playing for the enemy.

Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney

The reason I put these two together is because it is highly unlikely that Manchester City could get either one of them.

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Is Wayne Rooney the next player to leave United for City? It’s not as unlikely as it sounds.

Gareth Bale has been linked with moves away from White Hart Lane for some time now, but I think that Luka Modric’s inability to settle in at Real Madrid has disenchanted him with the prospect of playing for Los Blancos. Recently, it’s been rumored that Bale intends to stay in England for at least another year.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has also hit the rumor mill after being left out of United’s starting lineup against Real Madrid in their Champions League tie this past Tuesday. Rooney has been effectively replaced by Robin van Persie and the last time Fergie said he wouldn’t sell a player, Cristiano Ronaldo left for Madrid.