Felipe Melo: Mental Week and Mentally Weak, Juventus To "Finish Him"?
Perhaps we all misunderstand Felipe Melo. Maybe the top quality defensive midfielder on show in the early games of this World Cup and during his impressive spell at Fiorentina is his true self. When assessing his real value, is it us or him that is missing something?
He rates his performances in South Africa as "a six out of ten," claiming he'd be worthy of full marks if Brazil lifted the trophy instead of exiting to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
Some players just simply cannot cope with the stresses of the game at the highest level. Former Germany and Bayern Munchen midfielder Sebastian Deisler retired from the game at just 27 due to mental health issues, although injuries also took their toll. Are we witnessing another similar tale with the former Flamengo man?
Despite being involved in some big money transfers, Melo is fast becoming a liability in tense games. In his first season at Juventus following a €25 million transfer, he was sent off in a crunch match with Inter and insulted his own club's fans during disappointing results against Siena and Fulham.
He arrived at Brazil's pre-tournament training camp, stating how much happier he was with the national team compared to his club, prompting new Juve coach Gigi Delneri to question his future in Turin:
"The club must evaluate his comment and a fine will be taken into consideration. I don't know if Melo will stay. I believe that he can return to being useful, not last year's Melo, but that of Fiorentina and the Brazilian national team."
The problem now is that the Felipe Melo, who infuriated Juventus fans with poor behaviour and performances, acted the same way in Brazil's famous colours. The player managed to put on a miniature version of his entire season in just one match against Holland. Starting out dominating midfield, he showed great vision to release Robinho with an outstanding pass to open the scoring.
But as Brazil was pressured and eventually lost control of the match, Melo crumbled in every way, which was all too familiar to those who have closely followed his debut season in Turin. First a complete lack of awareness as he helped Wesley Sneijder's deep cross past his own goalkeeper Julio Cesar to cancel Brazil's lead.
Then came a complete meltdown as he tangled with Arjen Robben, fouling the Dutch winger before stamping on his leg as he lay on the floor, leading to a red card and spelling the end of his nation's hopes of hosting the 2014 World Cup as defending champions.
Never one to simply make a mistake and walk away, the midfielder then made matters worse when asked about the incident in the post game interviews. "Robben kept playing up. If I meant to hurt him, he would have left the pitch. I have enough strength to break his leg," he told stunned reporters.
Brazil fans have shared the blame for their exit between Melo and coach Dunga. But while the coach has quit and vanished, the Juve man has been left as public enemy number one. Compatriot Ronaldo advised him "not to take a vacation in Brazil" via his Twitter page, and many others are appearing across the Internet, some comparing him to cult icon Chuck Norris, others portraying his as a character in the video game "Mortal Kombat".
The new Juventus management team, led by Andrea Agnelli and Beppe Marotta, hoped a strong showing in Africa would help to find a buyer for the player and recoup much of his expensive fee. Surely now this latest act of self-destruction has firmly ended that possibility and a different, more difficult course of action must be taken.
Luigi Delneri must rebuild Felipe Melo into the tough, dominating player Juventus wanted when they brought him to Turin. Seeing his struggles and immaturity, despite entering what should be the best years of his career is reminiscent of Antonio Cassano, who also had petulant outbursts on and off the field. His subsequent rebirth at Sampdoria was at least in part facilitated by the same team Juventus now have in place - Delneri, Marotta and Paratici.
A repeat of his improvement from the Brazilian would be equally remarkable. It will not be easy however, as this season is one where la vecchia Signora needs to rediscover the gritty determination that has always been as synonymous with the club as their black and white stripes.
In poor form, perhaps not mentally strong enough in the biggest matches, a hate figure for fans of club and country, last seasons "Bidone d'Oro" needs to shine quickly, or another promising career could fizzle out to nothing.
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