How Barcelona's Neymar Can Get Even Better
Neymar is edging closer to the top of world football. At just 21 years old, the Brazilian sensation has captured the globe's imagination with fancy footwork and a stunning array of goals. The forward has been the recipient of praise for years, even compelling the great Pelé to proclaim him the best player in the world.
But despite Neymar's obvious talent, the new Barcelona signing has several areas where he can improve.
The winger has made two substitute appearances for his new team, scoring the equalizer in their Super Copa tie with Atlético Madrid this week. His potential seems limitless, but his contributions for Barca this campaign will be limited until he polishes his style of play in several areas.
Keeping Up the Tempo
One noticeable aspect of Neymar's game is his ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Highlights from his time with Santos show an exaggerated display of this talent. When Neymar collects the ball on the left side, he sometimes brings play to a complete stop before engaging his opponent.
Though entertaining, this complete halt to the play puts a stranglehold on momentum and may drive his teammates mad. Barcelona are known for their intricate passing patterns and movement, and Neymar would do well to develop this side of his game to facilitate the style of his team.
There will always be opportunities for Neymar to embark on his mazy runs, but knowing when to continue the passing move and when to hold and attack his man will be crucial to his development.
Perhaps the biggest question looming over Neymar's transfer to Europe was whether or not he could handle the physicality of the more competitive league.
The 21-year-old is slight. Though he more than makes up for his lack of stature in speed and creativity, pundits and fans alike recognize that Neymar could get stronger. During his medical examination with Barcelona, team doctor Ricard Pruna offered his evaluation, per the Daily Mail:
My first impression is that Neymar needs to gain a pound or two. Our medical inspection was done quickly and his weight is just another data point. The first impression is that he weighs 64.5 kilos and he has a tendency to lose weight. Perhaps he needs to add a kilo or two, but I can’t say exactly how many.
Lionel Messi and company have proven that physical prowess isn't necessary to become a top player. Yet gaining strength over time would do wonders for Neymar's game. Far too often, the Brazilian is forced off the ball—usually falling to the ground or drawing contact to earn a free-kick.
While he is extremely successful in earning dead ball situations for his club, Barcelona would like to keep the ball moving on most occasions. By gaining a few pounds and becoming a bit tougher, Neymar could keep the play alive and fight off defenders with greater success.
It will take some time, but adding a bit of muscle and strength to his frame will go a long way.
Expectations are sky high for Neymar. The endless comparisons to the world's best and constant pressure from fans back home surely take their toll on the young forward. Though he has lived up to the hype so far, immediate success in Europe is not guaranteed—and should not be expected.
Will Neymar ever win the FIFA Ballon d'Or?
It takes time to adapt to the speed of play and level of competition. Many South American players make the transition through a mid-level club before heading to an elite side. Neymar's talent earned him a spot with Barcelona, but he is certainly still developing.
During the time he uses to get acclimated to his new surroundings, fans, teammates and Neymar himself should be patient. Good things take time. He is sure to be a hit in his new squad, but it will not happen overnight. He must remind himself that at 21 years old, his best days are surely ahead.
If Neymar can understand the gravity of the situation and adapt accordingly, his vast potential will be fulfilled. The young striker is already considered among the best players in the world, and his Confederations Cup appearances reinforce these claims. But the player is capable of becoming even better.
By keeping in line with Barcelona's style, adding more strength and exhibiting patience over the next few years, Neymar is sure to be in the conversation for World Player of the Year.
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