It’s hard to believe that Neymar doesn’t know what he’s walking into. After being the biggest star on Santos and in Brazil, he’s going to have to learn playing as someone of a lesser stature for Barcelona, as Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the sole player above anyone else at the club.
But as we’ve suggested, while Neymar surely has a certain size of ego coming with him on the plane from Sao Paulo, he wouldn’t have agreed to play for Barcelona if he didn’t know that going to the Nou Camp means becoming somewhat of a second fiddle to the best player in the world.
It wouldn’t have been any different at Real Madrid, but something did draw him to Barcelona, and according to reports from Brazil and Spain, it wasn’t the money. Despite the obvious one-man team thing going on at Barcelona, more than ever over the last couple of seasons which has hindered their Champions League success, there’s more of a feeling that anyone can succeed there, with a much better team atmosphere.
At Real, where Cristiano Ronaldo is just as important as his “great rival” a few miles to the East is for Barcelona, it seems that trying to shine next to the star player was going to be a bit more difficult, and possibly even more demanding at a club that doesn’t enjoy too many gentle reviews from the media who expect everything from Real Madrid, but do enjoy ripping things to pieces when it doesn’t work out.
Neymar will be dealing with certain stigmas as he enters European football. His disappointing performances with Brazil against European sides (the few they have played) have already branded him as overrated by some, and the foot trickery and dribbling skills that seemed so natural to him while playing at Santos will be a bit harder to do in a tougher league, not to mention met with a great deal of aggression and possibly dirtiness from the first moment he begins to show his bag of tricks. Not that he wasn’t beaten up constantly in Brazil.
What might be his biggest challenge is going to be the diving. Neymar is used to being tackled quite a lot during matches, when defenders actually catch up with him. But he has already become infamous for his diving. With Lionel Messi it’s “Messi never dives“; Neymar seems to have quite the opposite reputation, which will probably draw even more criticism if that side of him shows up on a bigger stage in European football.
Playing in the shadow of Messi might be good, or bad. The expectations are going to be huge from Neymar, who has been talked up as the next best thing for the last couple of years, especially by Pele. But playing on a team that doesn’t base itself on him might make it easier for him to adjust to a new team, a new style, a new kind of football in general. Mega transfers usually bring with them huge demands for goals and success, but with Barcelona, as long as ego battles are averted and his landing goes smoothly, there’s enough talent around him to ease the pressure of immediate excellence.