Manchester United Transfers: Why Neymar Is Not the Right Fit at Old Trafford
So whether or not the Sun's "exclusive" was true (and Neil is usually quite sound with his United stories), there are other reasons to suggest that this would not be the deal to break United's transfer record. It would also have equalled the Premier League record set by Sergio Aguero's move to City.
So where is Neymar praying to end up and why would Fergie not buy him?
Not United, so Where Is Neymar Going?
Frankly, Ganso has always seemed more likely than Neymar to come to Old Trafford and, with his contract running down, it is difficult to understand why there wasn't more speculation about this move.
Sir Alex doesn't like doing deals involving third party players rights and this may have been a key factor in Carlos Tevez moving across the City.
You don't need to go far on Google to come across rumours of interest in Neymar from a host of clubs. Whether in January or next summer, a move might be accelerated if his friend Ganso moves.
But you can bet your life Ferguson wouldn't buy both.
As the Daily Mail article cited earlier suggests, Neymar is reluctant to move before the 2014 World Cup in Rio. There is no shortage of suitors now or then for the signature of a player slated to become the best in the world.
Fellow writer Charlie Melman has today listed five possible destinations for the Samba star and United are not among them.
As a Goalscorer?
OK so he scores amazing goals.
But so does Van Persie, Rooney, Nani, Valencia and Rafael. Even Nick Powell on Saturday and Dimitar Berbatov scored a spectacular overhead against Liverpool, but people talk about Rooney's as if it is the best ever in the Premier League.
And Dimitar was sold to Fulham (where incidentally he scored a tasty goal on Saturday).
The thing is it's not just about scoring goals. Although Rooney has not yet been fit enough for a top professional this season, his work rate is way beyond Neymar's.
I was at the Olympic Final at Wembley, where Mexico beat Brazil; also at the semi-final against Korea.
Yes, Neymar looks pretty spectacular on the ball. Yes, he finds great positions. Yes, he can beat any player in the world with his dribbling; and yes, he scores special goals.
But his work rate wasn't impressive in either match and scoring goals isn't everything—especially at Manchester United.
Look at Chicharito's work rate in the second half against Wigan; and how many tackles did Danny Welbeck win during the match? Both are goalscorers.
OK, so you say Neymar could be trained to do that, but there is a very good reason why he still wouldn't convince me.
He's Not Big or Strong Enough
This was Cristiano Ronaldo six years ago.
Have you seen Neymar? He's 1.75m and weighs 60 kilos.
Ronaldo is 186.5cm and 84.5 kg. They can both run through defences, but Cristiano could run through brick walls as well. He is an athletic machine, as impressive as any footballer who every played.
So OK, you say "but Messi is smaller than Neymar and he's the best player in the world."
Shorter he is, but he's also seven kilos heavier and, with a lower centre of gravity and legs like Aguero, he's much harder to knock off the ball.
Ryan Giggs can run through defences, even at 38 and he is two inches taller and 11 kilos heavier. Even Nani, the same height as Neymar, is ten percent heavier. But look how many times he gets knocked over (or falls over....)
To me Neymar looks frail. While defenders can't get away with kicking players into the stands anymore, look how many robust challenges there were by both sides at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Indeed it is a bit of a concern that Kagawa (who is heavier and has toughed it out at the top of the Bundesliga) and Cleverley (who is seven kilos heavier than Neymar) get knocked off the ball too easily.
OK I know. Wayne Rooney. Yes, he was undisciplined for a long time, although he is now a model professional in that respect.
The thing is, there is no shortage of videos on YouTube of Neymar going down under soft tackles and diving.
What worries me is whether he has a fatal flaw, like Paul Gascoigne.
Watch the above video again and you will see that Neymar appears to spit at the player who pushes him.
He may say that he gets fouled more than many players. You may say that he would get more time to play in the Champions League.
But to be worth the money he would have to play at least 30 Premier League games a year, without being sent off or injured.
He Can't Tackle
I've seen no evidence that he can tackle. I was at this match against Korea.
Look at the contribution that Van Persie and Kagawa have made already in their first couple of matches. Can you honestly see Neymar being prepared to put in that work rate like Chicharito did on Saturday, including tackling Wigan players?
Where would you play Neymar? Up top or in the hole? Certainly not as a creative midfield player.
He is a luxury player. He can make or score a goal out of nothing. Is that enough? It wasn't enough to keep Dimitar Berbatov who is also an outrageously talented player--and bigger and stronger.
Many people said that last season's United team was the worst they'd seen in years. So how did they score the highest ever number of points to finish second to a £500 million City side?
Simple. Talent. Team-work. Work rate. A high-paced technical game.
Neymar wouldn't cut it.
Messi cuts it at Barcelona because he is one of six midfielders who pass the ball for fun until eventually one of them (usually Leo) pops it in the net.
La Liga is physically inferior to the EPL and defences are generally much worse and less organised. Despite the current table, there are really only two teams who can win the league.
That's why Neymar is likely to end up there.
United Already Have Most of the Players They Need
Robin Van Persie is probably one of the top five strikers in the world. But he's not just a striker.
Wayne Rooney would walk into any team in the world. And he's not just a striker.
Shinji Kagawa will probably score 15 and make 15 goals this season and he's not even a striker.
OK so Neymar has scored 116 goals in 194 matches for Santos, but they wouldn't win the EPL.
Yes, its true that Sir Alex bid almost £30 million for Lucas Moura before conceding to Paris St Germain and Moura wasn't even a first choice for Brazil in the Olympics.
But apart from being heavier and stronger, Lucas is an attacking midfield player.
If United could afford the luxury of a player who can waltz through a defence, score with either foot and not run deep to win the ball or in any other way contribute to the other half of the game, i.e. defending, they have at least two such players on their books.
Rafael and Fabio Da Silva. Yes, they play at full back, but either could play on the wing. More important, they are natural born goalscorers and they can tackle.
Look at the goals each has scored at every level since they came to United.
No, I'm not advocating that either should play number 10, but United have found that they can't afford to have any luxury players in the Premier League, or indeed the Champions League.
As Chelsea showed last season and United previously, you need a mix of talent, technical skill, passing ability, pace, teamwork, defence in depth and organisation for an English team to win the Champions League.
Unless, of course you are Barcelona and that seems the most likely destination for Neymar.
That isn't very long these days, so no doubt the jungle drums will start beating again next summer, or even in January.
But the idea that United could have signed Neymar for £38 million is preposterous when they paid £24 million for Van Persie and Spanish paper AS reported City offered £160 million for Ronaldo (via Metro).
Despite what I've said here, Neymar is a very special player who can only get better. But surely he is more suited to a team like Barcelona, Real Madrid or the side that PSG can become?
In the meantime, it is worth speculating on how good a player Ryan Giggs might have been if he had played for Barcelona for the last 20 years in the role Lionel Messi plays now. Maybe the best ever?
If United have one last signing in them to be the very best they can be, surely it is more likely to be a Yaya Toure than a Neymar: someone who can keep things rock solid in midfield and ghost through defences as well, but with sheer physical power.
When you think about it, even Ronaldo would be a luxury in the present set-up because of his reluctance to tackle or track back.
Unless of course he was played as an out and out striker, which is where he should be.
Maybe after Van Persie?