A Tactical Look at Why Neymar Deserves All the Hype Surrounding Him
He is the name on the lips of the biggest spenders in European football. Everybody and anybody who considers themselves part of the Champions League elite has looked at Neymar, but it is now at a point where only very few can afford to add him to their ranks.
The reason for the demand is clear—Neymar is an outstanding footballer with the potential to reach the very top of the game. Importantly, he also brings with him a collection of sponsors to make even Cristiano Ronaldo weep, as well as access to the massive emerging market of Brazil.
He is a player who captures the imagination like few others can, and with his interest in fashion and style, he has the potential to be the biggest footballing earner since David Beckham.
It should not be forgotten, though, that the most important factor behind his incredible popularity is footballing ability, and a major part of that is his ability to play a number of roles for a side.
The Santos forward has spent much of his career operating as a second striker. With a central target-man leading the line, his ability to read the game and finish snap chances makes him an important figure.
It is a role from which he is allowed to drift out to his favoured left-flank and exploit any weakness, while also maintaining a central-striking presence when the time allows.
He has also, over the past 18 months to two years, improved his skills greatly as a playmaker during the prolonged absences of former colleague Ganso.
It is a position he has excelled in and could be called into action were he to move to Manchester City or Bayern Munich but would be less likely to play should he sign for Barcelona. For now, it must be considered Neymar's strongest tactical role, but there is little doubt he could be utilised elsewhere.
Should Neymar—as has been widely reported (Goal.com)—choose to join Barcelona when he leaves Santos, it is far more likely that he would be utilised in a left-sided inside forward role or as an occasional "False Nine."
The young Brazilian has played as an inside forward on a semi-regular basis throughout his career, and with David Villa's position at the club under continual review, it is the most obvious role for him to take up on arrival.
With a natural inclination to cut infield from the left and shoot right-footed, it is a role to which Neymar is well suited. At the international level, he has played in the role on a regular basis to varying effect but would surely benefit from playing in as well-oiled a unit as Barcelona on a regular basis.
The inside forward should be a goalscoring threat from a wide starting position, as Neymar no doubt is. What Neymar also offers that would place him among the best worldwide in the role is the ability to beat his marker on either side and use his left foot on a regular basis.
He has the potential to be highly destructive in the role.
If needed, though, Neymar could also operate as a false nine for the Catalan side with little second thought. With Brazil, Neymar spent much of 2012 playing the role in Mano Menezes' side and finished the year with an impressive return of nine goals in 12 games.
The role in Barcelona's preferred setup is naturally afforded to Lionel Messi, but Neymar would be the most natural replacement in the position the club could find. Certainly, he would be a more natural fit than either Alexis Sanchez or Cesc Fabregas, who have deputised over the past two seasons.
What is Neymar's best tactical role?
Neymar—although he can be selfish—has the ability to link play well in deeper areas and, if required, can lead the line and provide an aerial threat.
In that respect, he is one of the most rounded forwards in world football at present and, with the quality Barcelona could offer around him, would slip comfortably into a false-nine role if needed.
Perhaps, too, it is a role he would be asked to play should Pep Guardiola look to take him to Bayern Munich as has been suggested. (Metro)
It is this ability to play a selection of attacking roles to a very high level that makes Neymar such an attractive prospect to Europe's top sides. He is not pigeon-holed into one position and, no doubt, has been eyed for differing roles by each team that have looked at securing his signature.
As a long-term signing, he is the ideal choice. With his potential pull of high-profile sponsors, he would earn a significant amount of money for whichever club takes the gamble and he will no doubt assist in winning of trophies.
Importantly, though, whichever coaches or managers may come and go, he has the ability to adapt to their various preferred setups. With both Santos and Brazil he has been moved into a variety of roles and succeeded in each, becoming the leading light of both sides.
There are justifiably still doubts about his ability at the top level from many in Europe, but for those who have seen him progress, there is little reason to doubt that he can reach the very top levels of the game.
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