The long, protracted pursuit of Brazilian footballs Crown Prince has officially ended as Barcelona sealed the signature of Neymar, who signed a 5 year deal with the Catalan giants on Monday for a fee of £48.6m (57m euros).
The almost religious fervour that has followed Brazil’s number 11 ever since he burst onto the scene for Santos, as a 17 year old protégé, will continue to reach an even greater fever pitch in his next footballing pilgrimage at the Nou Camp.
However, Neymar, unlike many of the so-called South American ‘Wonder Kids’, who have earned big moves to Europe on the back of a couple of good 1st team performances, and a sensationalist review on a soccer magazine, has justified the hype which hangs over him. Since making his debut in 2009, the boy- inevitably dubbed the ‘New Pele’-has spearheaded Santos’ most sustained period of success since the halcyon days of the Great man himself. His 138 goals, in 229 matches for the club, helped Santos seal; three consecutive Sao Paolo State Championships, The Brazilian Cup (2010) and the Copa Libertadores (2011).
All good things must come to an end though. But will Santos’ loss be Barcelona’s gain? The man himself certainly thinks so.
Upon being unveiled in front of the adoring masses – tens of thousands of faitful Cule’s- at the Nou Camp, Neymar, unable to curb his enthusiasm and excitement, gushed, “My dream has come true. “I’ve never worried about being the best in the world. The best is already here and that’s Messi.
“I’m one of the luckiest men in the world to be able to play with him and it’s an honour. I’m very happy to be realising my life’s dream.
“To have the opportunity to play with great players I admire like Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta – I’ve begun a new stage of my life and I’m going to be very happy and achieve a lot.”
Is this gushing praise of Messi a genuine acceptance that he will be comfortable in a supporting role to the 4 time World Player of the Year? Or, is it in fact, a cunning attempt to conceal his true intentions in an elaborate disguise, perfumed with praise and flattery, in order to throw the Argentine off the scent, and gain his acceptance?
Vastly experienced, world class strikers such as Eto’, Ibrahimovic, Henry and Villa, have all failed to fit into a playing system which is perfectly tailored to suit the gifts of the little footballing god, and as a consequence, have all been marginalised by the presence of Messi. Neymar cannot allow himself to suffer a similar fate, especially if he wants to play a starring role next year for Brazil as they bid to win the World Cup on home soil. Instead, he must find a way to complement Messi’s talents whilst not totally compromising his own- a feat that has yet to be achieved since before Guardiola’s reign at Barca.
In a sense, the over reliance on Messi seems to have colonised the rest of the team, who, in his absence, seem unable to repel the attacks on their empire from their more illustrious opponents. Therefore, in theory, it would seem that the acquisition of Neymar is designed to redress the balance of power, so that the goal scoring responsibility is more evenly distributed between him and Messi. But, in practice, like any imperial ruler, the Argentine will be reluctant to relinquish any of his on-field power and authority to the young heir apparent.
So, in order for Neymar to a successful signing: he must quickly learn to dance to the sound of Messi’s tune, because the King of the Camp Nou is definitely not ready to cede his crown to the new, Fresh Prince of World Football.