Neymar: Pros and Cons of Barcelona Signing Brazilian Star
Like him or not, Neymar is a phenomenon. This weekend, aged just 20, the young Brazilian notched his 155th senior goal in a brace against Palmeiras, in the process taking his goals tally for the 2012 calendar year to a remarkable 56.
The statistics are scarcely believable, but as identified by FIFA president Sepp Blatter only this week, it will be difficult for him to compete for recognition as one of world's best players until he makes the long-awaited leap into European football.
The great and good of European football have been linked to his signature for some time now and it has regularly been reiterated that he will eventually make the big move following the 2014 World Cup.
European heavyweights Barcelona have been the side most consistently linked to his signature over the past eighteen months, with some reports claiming a deal is already complete. So, what are the reasons for and against the La Liga leaders signing Neymar?
For: A Unique Talent
The simple and most obvious reason for any club to sign Neymar is the player's considerable talent.
The Santos youngster has the potential to reach the pinnacle of world football and compete with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the title of being the world's best footballer—talent of a level that is not easily found elsewhere.
From the beginnings of his professional career, Neymar has had the potential to amaze with his moments of ingenuity and individualism. Over the past eighteen months, however, the star has matured into a fine all-around player, often proving to be Santos' greatest source of creative inspiration in supplying those around him.
Just 20, Neymar is still in his formative stages. Even in two years' time, should he leave following the World Cup, Barcelona would have a 22-year-old signing with a vast array of experience to his name and still young enough to be pliable to the team's requirements.
From a footballing perspective, there are very few reasons why Neymar would not be the ideal signing.
For: A Long-Term Villa Replacement
Should Neymar move to Barcelona, it is highly likely that he would arrive as the long-term replacement to David Villa. Now 31 and recently recovered from a major injury, it is unlikely that the Asturian has too many more years left in his glittering career.
Neymar's possible 2014 arrival could be the perfect time for a change of direction.
Neymar would offer Barcelona a very different threat from the left-flank, with the Brazilian more inclined to take on his man than the current Barça star. He would, though, be expected to quickly learn to make similar runs into the area as the Spaniard and be equally clinical with his finishing.
The thought of Messi and Neymar combining in the same attacking unit is undoubtedly a tantalising one, but it is important that he is given time to adapt. If they can get the balance of the forward line right, though, it could be devastating for defences Europe-wide.
For: A Sponsors Dream
Neymar's sponsorship deals are already at an unprecedented level for a player based in Brazil and are amongst the highest anywhere worldwide.
The 20-year-old earns a whopping $1.5 million a month salary at Santos, the majority of which is paid by sponsors including Banco Santander, whilst that figure is topped up by contracts with Nike, Red Bull and Panasonic.
For Nike in particular, Barcelona signing Neymar would be an almost perfect scenario and they would be likely to do all in their power to see it happen.
At present, Barcelona and the Brazil National Team are two of the brand's biggest clients worldwide, with Neymar the rising star of their stable. The chance to combine all three and make Neymar the iconic player of his generation would be an opportunity too good to miss for the brand's advertising department.
For whichever club that eventually signs the Santos youngster, marketing opportunities will play a big role in the decision. Neymar is Brazil's most marketable force since Ronaldo and, with Messi not as charismatic as some would like and Cristiano Ronaldo often perceived as arrogant, it is possible that he could scale right to the top of football's earnings ladder simply by putting pen to paper on a European move.
Whoever ultimately splashes out to secure his services could end up making their money back several times over.
Against: An Enormous Investment
The most obvious reason against Barcelona signing Neymar is price. When the Brazilian does make his move across the Atlantic, the transfer fee involved will eclipse previous records for signing a player from South America, including the €47 million deal that will take Lucas Moura to PSG next January.
It's not that Barcelona could not fund such a deal. Despite their massive debts and recent struggles to fund the transfer of Cesc Fabregas, for example, the Catalan giants could easily generate the money needed if required.
The question is rather: do Barcelona need to spend such money on one player? Johan Cruyff argues not.
Barcelona are a club famed for their use of their academy and, in close proximity of the first-team, they have two highly rated attacking talents in Jean-Marie Dongou and Gerard Deulofeu (pictured). By 2014, both will likely be a fixture in the first-team squad.
With two players of such potential on their hands and the likes of Messi, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello and Pedro all still so young, is there a need to spend so much on just one individual?
It is a debate that will rage at boardroom level for some time.
Against: Messi's Role in the Team
As discussed earlier, the thought of Neymar and Messi lining up alongside each other is the stuff of footballing dreams worldwide. Indeed, it is a combination that fans the planet over have no doubt trialled and tested on every football simulation game going.
But, will it work in reality?
Barcelona have adapted to life under new coach Tito Vilanova with a change of set-up and they could no doubt adapt again to accommodate the Brazilian if needed. However, would the presence of both Neymar and Messi in the same side detract from each others' play, despite their vastly different styles?
For Neymar the problem could well be that, upon a move to Barcelona, he would forever be compared to his Argentine elder. The pressure to hit the ground running would be immense and there is always the potential for a loss of confidence after a slow start. However, it would seem unlikely.
More realistic a possibility is that the presence of both sees Barcelona look to force both into the game, at the risk of damaging Messi's effectiveness in the process. It is an alteration to the side that would need to be carefully handled in order not to disrupt the established balance.
Against: Very Little Else
Let's be honest, there is next to no other reason to doubt that Neymar would be an excellent signing for any team.
As long as the deal is affordable and his presence does not affect the performance of Messi, it would be a struggle to argue against Barcelona moving for the star.
Neymar is hard-working, professional and, despite how he is often portrayed by those who know little more about him than his extravagant hair-styles, he is a down-to-earth individual and a family man at heart.
In his younger days there were issues with petulance and, indeed, manager Dorival Junior was sacked by Santos in September 2010 after a very public row with the youngster over the trivial matter of who should take a penalty.
Through fatherhood and an increasing amount of responsibility in the dressing room, Neymar has matured at a rapid pace and you would be hard-pressed to find a negative comment about him from anybody at the club at present.
Closely watched by his father, a former footballer who acts as his adviser, Neymar has performed admirably both on and off the pitch in the last twelve months, often under immense scrutiny. His every action is judged by media and fans alike, but in truth there is very little to criticise.
The truth of the matter is, whichever club does secure his signature will have a very talented and rounded young man on their hands.