It would be easy for Neymar to start dreaming about what the future holds after signing a five-year contract with Spanish powerhouse Barcelona. The talented striker, however, must remain focused on the task at hand ahead of a busy summer with Brazil.
The Brazilian national team is going through a rare down period. The country, which for a long time was a constant presence inside the top 10, has faded all the way to No. 22 in the FIFA rankings. Not a comforting sign ahead of hosting the World Cup next year.
Neymar is the player the nation is looking toward to lead a resurgence. The next couple weeks will be a tremendous measuring stick of progress, or lack thereof, as the Canarinha play a friendly against France before taking part in the Confederations Cup.
The 21-year-old striker already had a strong showing against England in a 2-2 draw. Building off that and leading Brazil to positive results throughout the offseason is key for multiple reasons.
Most importantly, he should want to prove he's capable of taking on the task of leading Brazil back up the rankings before next summer. It's a role too many players have shied away from in recent years, which explains the fading performance.
Neymar certainly possesses the talent necessary to become one of the best players in the world and a vital element in the Brazilian comeback. As always, however, having the talent and actually accomplishing something are two completely different things.
Matches against the likes of France, which Brazil plays in a friendly on Sunday, Italy and Mexico are a perfect opportunity for Neymar to lead the squad to some statement victories.
Vice-president Bartomeu reveals that Neymar's buyout clause is set at 190 million and that the deal to purchase the player cost 57 M euros.— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) June 3, 2013
Whenever a club is forced to make that type of investment, it expects the player to make an immediate impact of gigantic proportions. In Barcelona terms, that means defending the La Liga title and pairing it with a Champions League triumph.
Will Neymar lead the Brazil resurgence?
Barca will put Neymar in a position to succeed, playing in front of one of the world's top midfield groups and alongside the dynamic Lionel Messi. But in the end, it still comes down to Neymar finding and displaying top form with the club quickly.
The best way for him to prepare for that pressure is success with the national team. A strong summer with Brazil, highlighted by a deep Confederations Cup run sparked by some memorable offensive displays, would set him up to thrive right away with his new club.
Neymar's future is bright, but he needs to keep taking it one step at a time. Right now, that means helping Brazil get back on track.