In the blue and red stripes, Lionel Messi is surrounded by seven fellow Ballon d’Or 2011 shortlisted players; however, in the blue and white stripes, he is surrounded by just one – Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
A condemning critique would be to assess the player on individual brilliance and not the players accompanying him too, but that doesn’t account for the dropping standards in South American football and, in fact, it would mask it; for the Ballon d’Or, as aforementioned, only two Argentines were shortlisted, only two Uruguayans and only two Brazilians: the sum total of South America’s three most currently threatening sides, 6, was beaten by Spain alone.
At current, Neymar is tied down to a contract with Santos until 2015 and if his value to Brazilian football was ever in doubt, the fact that the nation’s bank and postal service are the majority payers of the wage his contract demands, is enough to convince the most sceptical observer: imagine if Wayne Rooney’s wage was being paid for by The Bank of England.
Whilst one former Santos player, a product of their youth system, Diego, now at Atletico Madrid on loan from parent club Wolfsburg, insists that Neymar is, “playing in the right team and in the right country right now,” he admits that for every Brazilian, “the chance to play in Europe, in the Champions League, at a big club, with the best players in the world, is still the dream.”
It is a dream that, for Neymar, must become a reality: “an objective,” says Diego.
The benefits of hosting the World Cup and then the Olympics two years later, will not be felt, footballing wise, whilst Neymar still dazzles opposition defenders and humiliates goalkeepers; it will not be instantaneous but it will materialise and it will, naturally, produce a wave of talent that Brazil are now better positioned, financially, than ever to capitalise on.
For Neymar, a move to Europe is inescapable and it is purely a question of when; however, with Messi only 24-years of age and already in possession of three Ballon d’Ors and five La Liga titles, if Neymar is ever to be considered great, he must move to Europe and move to Europe now.
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