Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG could be the making of him

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Neymar is nearing a world record £198m move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. Sky Sports spoke to Brazilian football expert Tim Vickery about why it is such an important moment in the forward’s career.
Between joining Barcelona from Santos in 2013 and confirming his intention to depart for Paris Saint-Germain this week, Neymar lifted eight major trophies and established himself as one of the world’s leading players.

The Brazilian formed arguably the greatest strike force of all time with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, scoring 105 goals in 186 games over the course of four seasons in Catalonia.

The decision to leave it all behind has sent shockwaves around the world of football, but it can also be seen as a necessary step for Neymar to fulfil his personal ambitions. Unseating Messi as Barcelona’s main man in the foreseeable future would be a near impossible task for any player, so when the Argentine signed a new four-year contract this summer, Neymar decided to go it alone.
“It’s no coincidence that all this has arisen after Messi signed a new contract,” explains Brazilian football expert Tim Vickery, who has followed Neymar’s career from the start. “There were three options: Messi moving on, Neymar replacing Messi, or Neymar moving on. It looks like we’ve got option three.”

The move to PSG will bring considerable financial rewards for Neymar and his entourage, but it is also driven by careful career planning, according to Vickery. “Neymar’s entire career has been taken step by step by step, with the idea of not only winning club titles but winning the World Player of the Year award,” he says.
Neymar’s closest brush with that prize came in 2015, when he finished third in the voting behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The 25-year-old will be aware that Messi had already won it three times by the same age. And as a Brazilian, Neymar will be eager to give himself the best chance possible to emulate previous winners Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka as he enters his peak years.

“That prize is huge in Brazil, it’s almost like a birth right,” says Vickery. “It’s becoming more important than any club honour. More and more players are motivated by these individual awards, and Brazilian football puts huge emphasis on the gifted individual. It’s one of the reasons they produce so many of them.”

Neymar’s hunt for the prize was shaped by his teenage years in Brazil. “Failing at the U17 World Cup in 2009 was significant for Neymar,” says Vickery. “He was already a big star in senior football with Santos, but Brazil were knocked out at the group stage. Neymar was taken off twice because he couldn’t make an impression. That was an alarm bell: global football is hard.”

Neymar resolved to bide his time. “When Robinho, Neymar’s idol, moved across to Europe it was automatically assumed in Brazil that he was going to stroll to the World Player of the Year award,” says Vickery. “In the end, he didn’t get anywhere near it. Neymar could have come to Europe long before he did, but he knew there was a degree of difficulty there.

“When he did make the move, he chose Barcelona for a reason,” adds Vickery. “It wasn’t like Denilson going to Real Betis and being expected to carry the team at the age of 20. Neymar was going to a well-established team with a huge star in Lionel Messi. He could ease his way in.”

Neymar duly went from strength to strength alongside Messi. “He is an idol in football,” Neymar told La Liga World in May. “I’ve been here for almost four years and I’ve learnt a lot from him. I’ve learnt everything, how to shoot, how to be attentive on the pitch and how to move the ball.”
Neymar also learned how to take responsibility. The Brazilian has often impressed when Messi has been missing in recent seasons, and he was famously influential in Barcelona’s extraordinary Champions League comeback against PSG. With Luis Enrique’s side staring at elimination, Neymar scored twice, won a penalty and played the pass for Sergi Roberto to complete the 6-1 victory.

That performance alone showed that Neymar is ready to take the spotlight for himself. PSG do not have the historical stature or European pedigree of a club like Barcelona, but Neymar will be their undisputed figurehead. “The most important thing is there’s no one to challenge his No 1 status,” says Vickery. “He has been brought along slowly but he’s ready to take it on for himself now.”

It’s a bold move from Neymar to leave behind the comfort of Barcelona and his MSN colleagues, but it could be the making of him. In the years ahead, it will be intriguing to see whether it pays off.Euro Soccer Bonus

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