Brazilian star Neymar divides opinions like few others in professional sports.
To many, he is the latest in a line of Brazilian prodigies, destined to follow in the footsteps of legends like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka. The funny-haired forward has even been deemed someone who has “the capabilities to play better than Messi” by the almighty Pele.
On the other hand, no one faces more criticism than Neymar. He has long been criticized for being a big fish in a small pond, as most of his damage has been done at Santos in his homeland of Brazil. He has never replicated his club success on the international level, as he was part of the disappointing Copa America and Olympic squads.
When it comes to Neymar’s critics, England midfielder and twitter philosopher Joey Barton puts it best: “Neymar is the Justin Bieber of football. Brilliant on the old Youtube, cat piss in reality.”
With that being said, Neymar needs to use this Confederations Cup as his coming out party if he expects the world to take him seriously.
With his much talked about move to Barcelona finally secure, Neymar has finally stepped into soccer adulthood, as he will now be expected to compete with the big boys of Europe. He will no longer be protected by playing in a league where he is the almighty, as he will now be just one of many on a team comprised of the world’s elite.
While proving his worth to his new club is essential, he also has the weight of an entire country on his shoulders. Brazil is playing on home soil, meaning they are expected to have a successful tournament run. If Brazil falters, blame will fall solely on Neymar. Despite being only 21-years-old, Neymar is the face of this Brazilian team, and will take credit or blame for how they perform.
Neymar himself has admitted how important these upcoming weeks will be for him, as he has stated that he expects success from both himself and his team.
“"This will be one of the most important tournaments of my career and I want to do well,'' said Neymar in a recent press conference. "We want to win the title now and then succeed in the World Cup next year too.''
It is finally time for Neymar to sink or swim.
With the World Cup looming, his international performances have never been more important to his country. Neymar has also finally secured his big money Barca move, meaning he will soon get his chance to prove he is in the same stratosphere of Ronaldo and Messi. All of that begins with this tournament, as the time has come for Neymar to prove his worth.