Should Brazil Forward Neymar Join Barcelona Before 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Barcelona full-back Dani Alves has made claims that his fellow Brazilian Neymar will be joining the Spanish club in the future, but is the forward waiting too long to make the move to Europe?
If I were him I would come as soon as possible because it would allow him to improve the tactical side of his game before the  World Cup. Apart from that he would be coming to a club that would suit the qualities he has as a player. I have already told him what I think. He knows what Barcelona can offer because I have made it my duty to tell him. But at the same time I can't grab him and bring him here. If I could I would have already done it. It's his decision.
Clearly, Dani Alves believes his international team mate would be better off making the switch now, and from a neutral perspective it is hard to disagree with that notion.
Neymar has excelled domestically in his home country, so much so that he has become one of the world's most sought-after youngsters. Most big clubs in Europe, who have money to spend, have been linked with him at one time or another, though it seems increasingly likely that his first stop will be at Barcelona in Spain.
A potentially great player, moving to an already great team, should be a terrific opportunity for the youngster to test himself on, with all respect to the Brazilian national championship, a bigger stage against better opponents.
Moving to Europe would see Neymar play against a range of different tactics defensively, against better individual defenders and against sides who play at a greater tempo than he is used to in his homeland.
Therein, though, also lies the problem for Neymar and seemingly the reason why he has not chosen to move on yet.
Should he join Barcelona a year earlier, this coming summer, he would open himself up to the possibility of failing to adapt, failing to have the instant impact that will be expected of him, failing to fit in with his new teammates—and perhaps comparisons to Leo Messi, an Argentine—and the general loss of confidence that comes with it all.
Staying in Brazil is the safe option for the next year, where he already knows he will be a success and a guarantee for the national team squad for the World Cup, barring injury.
However, at 21 years of age he is in peak physical condition and should be making the most of that by taking his already-honed technical ability and improving the tactical and mental parts of his game to go with it.
Wanting to arrive at the World Cup in form is understandable, but leading up to the tournament, his Santos side will not be competing in the national championships but the regional one.
As South American football expert Tim Vickery puts it (via BBC):
Europe's Champions League goes into the knockout stage in the very week that the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent, kicks off. Neymar features in neither. For the next few months, he is left kicking his heels in the obsolete and irrelevant Sao Paulo State Championship.
Vickery has previously spoken about Neymar and his willingness to stay put at Santos.
In 2010, Neymar was roundly praised after deciding against a move to England at just 18 years of age, instead signing a new long-term deal with Santos.
Last year, when Neymar was aged 20, Vickery spoke about it being the right time for him to leave Brazil and find a team in Europe to continue his success with—and perhaps last summer would have been the best moment, in terms of having a season to settle before the World Cup year and still having enough experience behind him during his formative seasons.
Now, though he is just 21, it almost seems as though time is against Neymar for joining a big club; if he is to join Barcelona after the 2014 World Cup he will be well on his way to turning 23 by that time, not giving him much room to negotiate a settling-in spell.
The impact, and return on Barca's investment, will have to be immediate.
If he fails to perform at the World Cup itself for Brazil, in his homeland, Neymar opens himself up to a world of criticism for not moving earlier—would he have gained more experience against European defenders? Would he have learnt to position himself better to receive the ball? Would the mental pressure have been less if he'd had to concentrate game-to-game for Barcelona during the season, rather than waiting for a long time, flowing along in autopilot for Santos, for the World Cup to arrive?
Moving clubs always contains an element of risk, especially when such a sea-change is involved in terms of culture, language, footballing style and, of course, the ever-present "price tag."
But if Neymar wants to prove himself as a top talent, both domestically and in Europe, then he is almost certainly to be better served by moving to Barcelona in the summer of 2013 rather than waiting another year in the safety of his present club, Santos.
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