Neymar Must Turn Confederations Cup Brilliance into La Liga Consistency

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 30:  Neymar of Brazil receives his medal from Marcelo at the end of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Neymar didn't need to win the Golden Ball for everyone to know he was the best player at the Confederations Cup.

He had the best highlights. He was the most influential player in Brazil's five consecutive wins. He was the first player to score in the tournament and added a goal in the final. If anyone doubted his star power before, they no longer do.

If you'd like a tidy recap of just how good he was at the Confederations Cup, put together this handy little infographic:

An eight-country tournament on his home soil is one thing, but a slate of La Liga games—along with the Champions League and Copa Del Rey—is quite another test altogether. It's time for Neymar to prove he can turn this international success into consistent performances for Barcelona. 

There are so many questions facing Neymar this season. 

Can he handle the physical play of La Liga? Can he adjust to the tiki-taka system of play? Can he coexist with Lionel Messi, the focal point of Barca's attack? Can he cut back on his diving? Will he pick his spots to take on opposing defenders by himself? Can he consistently perform, night in and night out?

With the World Cup a year away, this season takes on particular importance for Neymar. A successful La Liga and Champions League campaign could propel him into an epic World Cup next summer for Brazil, a particularly important one for the host nation. 

But what if he struggles next season? Will he lose his confidence? Will the electrifying play and otherworldly talent take a backseat to a more tentative Neymar?

It's hard to imagine that happening. He has so much talent, and he'll be surrounded by so many elite players, that the level of his own play should rise by proxy. Plus, he fits in naturally on the left wing for Barca and should interchange well with Messi in the attack. 

He'll need to bulk up, sure, and his football IQ will need to continue to evolve. He'll also need to become a more well-rounded player and learn what it feels like to no longer be the best player in the league he plays in, let alone the best player on his team. 

Heck, he's not even the second or third-best player on his team, at least not yet. For now, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez earn those distinctions. 

But oh, that potential. He has the skill to become the best wide man not named Cristiano Ronaldo in the world, and I'm talking about in the next year. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where he hits the ground running, Barcelona runs to a treble and Neymar lifts Brazil to a World Cup title next summer. 

How epic would that year be? 

More likely, Neymar will have some struggles. The grind of Barcelona's demanding schedule will take its toll. At times, he'll become mentally frustrated learning Barcelona's system. It won't be easy. 

That will be his battle this year. The spectacular will no longer be so easy to orchestrate. The amount of time he can linger on the ball will shrink, as will the windows to shoot through and the gaps to work a pass within. 

It's the most important year of his life. Based on how he handled the Confederations Cup, you would be unwise to bet against him. 


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