Pressure can make two outcomes. It either makes a person crack, or that person becomes a diamond.
Neymar Jr. is indeed a diamond.
Neymar Jr. is one of the most technically gifted players to have ever played the game. His career so far has been nothing short of brilliant so far working his way from Santos F.C all the way to the top tier of football/soccer.
He came into prominence at Santos F.C when he was 17. Immediately striking the eye as a player with bundles of potential. So much potential that European powerhouse F.C Barcelona paid a transfer fee of £71.4 million to acquire his services.
As part of Barcelona's attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, he won the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League, and finished third for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2015 for his fantastic season.
It seemed that things were only going to get better for Barcelona and Neymar, but here is when the dynamic started to change for both. (Stay tuned blog on the Barcelona situation is coming soon!)
As stated before, Neymar finished third in Ballon d’Or voting. He wanted to be recognized as the BEST. It would be hard to do that in Lionel Messi’s shadow so he left with the intention to be the man to lead his team to glory.
In 2017 he got his wish. Neymar transferred to Paris Saint-Germain in a move worth €222 million, making him the most expensive player ever.
Here’s where things started to change. Being the most expensive player comes with so much pressure and expectations. To this day, some people say that certain expectations haven’t been met.
While winning Ligue 1 is a good
achievement the ultimate goal was to win a Champions League at Paris Saint Germain. Doing that would propel him to being in the conversation as the best player right now, which would give him a better chance at winning the Ballon d’Or.
It has yet to be done so far. Suffering some painful defeats to an inferior Manchester United squad in 18/19 and losing the final to Bayern Munich in 19/20. These setbacks have definitely led to an effect on Neymar’s mental focus and drive towards the game.
Not only has he had to deal with pressure and setbacks in his Club career, but most of it has come from his international career with Brazil. Winning a World Cup is his biggest dream and unfortunately, he hasn't been able to do that yet.
As you probably remember in the 2014 World Cup Neymar got an injury to his vertebrae which nearly ended his career.
"It was one of the worst moments of my career. It ruined my dream of playing in a World Cup, playing the semi-final, the final... I couldn't move my feet. I started to cry uncontrollably" -Neymar
These setbacks didn't come without resurgence. Neymar has led Brazil to win Copa America, and also the Gold Medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. That was a huge achievement for Neymar, and the Brazilian squad to win in front of their fans. You could see the emotion when Neymar took the winning penalty, dropping to his knees crying.
The theme seems to be the same in both International and Club football for Neymar. Yes, he has helped lead his teams to success, but ultimately hasn't reached the highest goal which is the World Cup and the Champions League.
All of this pressure has understandably made Neymar lose some of the love he had for the game. Recently, he has said he doesn't know if he has the mental capacity for the game of football anymore.
I think Qatar 2022 will be my last World Cup because I don't know if I have the mental strength to deal with football anymore,"
"I will do everything to get there in good shape, to win with my country, to fulfill the dream I have had since I was a child and I hope I can achieve it."
These quotes made the football world and take a step back. If Neymar, who is in his prime at the age of 29 is already talking about retiring something must be wrong. He has been facing so much pressure, setbacks, and unfortunate injuries for years on years.
What's Next For Neymar?
It is clear that Neymar Jr. isn't at his peak in terms of mental health and focus. The first priority for him is to try to get some of that love for the game back. The love of the game is the most important thing. If you don't have that you can't succeed.
He doesn't have anything to prove to anyone anymore. I think he's lost himself over the years, because of that natural instinct to prove everyone wrong.
Yes, everyone wants to win, but that's not what it is all about. He has inspired the belief that anybody can reach the highest level coming from poverty and playing in the streets. Not only in Brazil but worldwide. He is already a legend just for that in itself.
Have you ever heard the phrase that "Pressure Makes Diamonds"? Neymar is a diamond. If he can take a step back and realize that again he has an opportunity to not only find himself again but reach those dreams that he wants so bad.
The PSG squad is loaded. Ironically he is back playing with Lionel Messi, but their team is world-class. They are one of the favorites to win the Champions League, so there definitely are some expectations. If the squad can play to their potential especially that front three of Neymar, Mbappe, and Messi they can achieve the goal that the club has been chasing for years.
The Brazilian National team arguably has their most talented squad in years. The defense looks very solid with the likes of Militao and Thiago Silva. The midfield is very physical and aggressive with the likes of Fabinho, Casemiro, and Fred. The attack looks lethal and there will be less pressure on Neymar to score goals and create. The breakthrough of Vinicius Jr. gives Brazil another dangerous attacking option, along with the rise of Richarlison, and Raphinha.
The World Cup in Qatar next year is coming quickly, and hopefully, Neymar will be fit and raring to go. What stage is better than the World Cup to express yourself and rediscover that love for the game of football/soccer.
It is going to be very interesting over the next few years to see how this situation unfolds. Will he let the pressure ultimately start the end of his career, or will it be an opportunity to refresh and reach the goals he's set for himself?
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