It’s a simple complex question. Just like majority of the questions that plague football fans. Take Fernando Torres for instance. It’s unanimously agreed that his performances at Chelsea have, to put it mildly, been below expectations. However, since he arrived in London, he has won an FA Cup, a Europa League title and a Champions League Medal. These are three trophies he would most likely not have won at Liverpool who despite having excellent history have been a tad mismanaged in recent times. So, in essence, he sacrificed personal acclaim and legendary status at Liverpool for the lure of trophies and more money-a seemingly rational decision which paid off quite handsomely. In contrast, Alan Shearer had the chance to join Manchester United in the mid 90s but turned it down. He is certainly a legend at Newcastle but I’m sure a little bit of him thinks twice about not taking the risk back then, a risk which could have won him a Premier League medal amidst other trophies and could have even made him a legend with a different team, Manchester United.
Now, you’re wondering what all these guys have got to do with Neymar and asking yourself why on earth I didn’t choose a less complicated analogy. Well, that’s the first one that came to mind so take it like that joor. Seriously though, practically every footballing decision has a huge element of risk attached to it. Sneijder to Inter! Bang! Worked! Michu to Swansea! Bang! Worked too! Ronaldo to United! Excellent! Worked to perfection! Bendtner to Juventus! Errr! Not too sure . . . Sinclair to City! Hmmmm . . . Gudjohnsen to Stoke! Why on earth would he do that?!!! Bebe to United! Now, that was just silly! The point is all these players and clubs wanted the best for their respective careers and teams and so while some decisions panned out wonderfully, others did not.
Neymar has made a very big decision to join Barcelona. One that in any other decade in recent football history would at worst be tagged a brilliant decision. However, he has chosen to move in the one decade where Lionel Messi is almost sure to take centre stage. Since 2006, Little Leo has gradually played an increasingly integral role in Barcelona’s play basically scoring more than half their UEFA Champion’s League goals since 2007. An impressive statistic for a phenomenal player but one that doesn’t bode well for Neymar-another player who loves to be at the centre of things.
I’m going to reel out a few players who found that their star couldn’t shine as brightly at Los Cules because they had to curb themselves for the greater good of the team. Alexis Sanchez; limited his best attribute of aggressively running at and dribbling defenders to join the passing carousel! Ibrahimovic; well, that’s self explanatory. David Villa; started well but eventually shunted out to the left to ‘cater to the team’s needs'(quote from a friend, No! . . . I didn’t make it up! . . . Ok, maybe a little)! Even Fabregas has seen his game suffer because of the immovable pair of Xavi and Iniesta. The point I’m making here is that Barcelona are a very well oiled machine who won’t mind dumping your individual needs if it doesn’t show good signs for the team already on ground.
If for one moment, you find it in your wisdom to label the outrageously good Neymar as overrated . . . well, you might be right. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the fact that he’s a supremely talented footballer; one of the few left of his kind, the endangered species of crowd entertainers. The things that boy can do with a football to grown men are just amazing. His speed of thought, skill, flair, touch and every other fanciful attribute are present in stupendous amounts. He’s simply a joy to watch. So, why would he decide to go to a place where he might have to curtail this prodigious potential for the good of the team? Messi is not going anywhere anytime soon unless he has a career threatening injury and even the most heartless of souls would pray against that (I’m looking at you two – Hitler and Stalin). Therefore, it follows logical reasoning that he should either have waited a while longer or chosen a different path.
I am not a soothsayer (Seriously, I’m not. My prediction that Daniele Vantaggiato would be great soon clearly depicts this sad fact) but I believe Neymar could have limited the RISK of him flopping by joining a different team. Just in case, you are letter-case blind, the RISK is capitalized because I’m not suggesting for one minute he will flop, it’s a risk and risks can go either way. He could end up becoming the new Ronaldo(the fat one) or could equally end up as a Robinho and if things are really bad, a Kleberson. We all hope he won’t end up as an Afonso Alves who I’m almost sure stole a Brazilian passport (I kid!). That’s exactly what risk means and the least we can do in life is to minimize the risk. Buy a Cazorla for 18mil, buy a Michu for 2mil, buy a Ronaldo(the fit one) for 12mil so even if they flop, the outlay is never too much to really dent your finances. Liverpool should note that buying Downing and Henderson for a combined 20mil is NOT! a risk. It’s bad management and at a combined 40mil is just very poor scouting akin to Chelsea signing Shaun Wright Phillips for 22 mil.
So, I know you’re asking what these other risk-limiting clubs are especially considering financial constraints. Well, I’ll jump at you first with a Bayern Munich; historically good with Brazilians and about to hire a certain Pep Guardiola. A man I’m sure would be glad to build another team around one of the only other players on the planet who can rival Messi for moments of pure magic. PSG are an equally viable option. With cash to throw around and enough time and less pressure, they could definitely build a future around Neymar. In the same vein, Monaco could be a nice stepping stone too. Man City with Pellegrini at the helm are an equally exciting prospect for him and with the solid defensive base already on ground, he will only need to bother himself with bamboozling the uber physical English defenses. I must state, however that other leagues are of higher preference than the English league where the weather, style of play and physicality could lead to similar disillusionment that has disturbed many of his countrymen in the past on British shores.
I’ll close by saying this. I like Neymar. No matter what the naysayers think, I strongly believe he is the only player in the world with anywhere near the potential to one day rival Messi and Ronaldo in terms of raw contribution to their respective teams. I think those guys can score more than the only remaining guy in the world after an alien invaded earth and killed all the other males on the planet before committing suicide. I wish him the very best in his career and I’d love it if he eclipses Messi and takes centre stage on the pitch and in the heart of the Catalan club(I never forgave Messi for WYC 2005 against Nigeria’s Mikel etc). However, I believe he could have taken a much SAFER (NOT better, nobody can know this except a time traveller) decision by waiting and/or joining one of the other teams I listed earlier. Arsene Wenger will agree with me as he too loves to play it safe.
The prosecution now rests its case. I look forward to hearing from the defense . . .
By I.V Okata . . . an avid football lover
Follow him on Twitter @IzutaDGaffer