Neymar, it seems, is “sad.”
“He seems sad to me,” remarked former Santos manager Muricy Ramalho in a Wednesday interview with TV Globo, as per Football-Espana.
Ramalho, who coached Neymar at the Vila Belmiro, had been alarmed at the player’s lack of involvement in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Champions League, offering that “there were two passages of play in which Neymar was free but [Lionel] Messi didn’t pass him the ball.”
He added, “The team seems to be playing for one man only.”
Four days later Neymar didn’t even see the pitch against Osasuna and cut a rather gloomy figure among the Camp Nou substitutes.
“These were the concerns I had about him going to Europe,” opined Ramalho. “He is sat on the bench.”
Ramalho, for point of context, arrived at Santos in April 2011 following the 58-day tenure of Adilson Batista, who on New Year’s Day had been appointed to succeed interim boss Marcelo Martelotte, who had, himself, replaced the ousted Dorival Junior in September 2010.
And Dorival, whose guidance had delivered a Paulista and Copa do Brasil double while encouraging a watchful brand of up-tempo, attacking football (the Copa win put Santos into the Copa Libertadores, which they ended up winning), had been compelled to leave his post following a power-struggle with an 18-year-old Neymar.
It was a quarrel that came to a head during a Brasileiro match at home to Atletico Goianiense when Neymar, having just won a penalty, threw a fit after Dorival instructed Marcel to take the spot kick.
Initially sulking and throwing water bottles around, Neymar continued to feed his own aggravation until he initiated a shouting match with his manager at the final whistle.
Dorival suspended the forward for the upcoming derby against Corinthians, but several days later he was out of a job—the Santos board having bristled at the thought of their coach picking a fight with the most iconic figure in contemporary Brazilian football.
TV Globo had a field day with the incident, publishing numerous cartoons likening Neymar to a baby.
They had a point.
Adored by a public that admired the player’s willingness to remain in his home country while overseas offers poured in for his services, Neymar was well near untouchable in Brazil.
The previous summer he had agreed a lucrative new contract with Santos, as per The Guardian, and following Brazil’s failure at the 2010 World Cup he had also become the face of a younger, fresher national team.
He was being coddled, and the pampering continued until he joined Barcelona during the summer of 2013.
It was a sort of indulgence that was never going to be afforded him at Camp Nou.
And now, with current manager Gerrardo Martino speculating that the problems with his transfer are behind his downturn in form, according to Goal, Neymar faces the first bit of adversity of his brief and babied, albeit remarkable, career.
How he handles it will have a lot to do with the reputation he carves for himself in European football.
Over the next few weeks and months we’ll surely learn a thing or two about Neymar’s character.