Is anyone bothered about Neymar anymore?


Truth is, everyone's just a bit bored of him

From rainbow-flicking hapless defenders in the Brazilian first division as a wide-eyed 19-year-old, to lighting up the Camp Nou with his dazzling displays for Barcelona each and every week, Neymar has always had the world on tender hooks, eagerly anticipating his next move. The majestic forward, known for his lightening-quick feet and bordering-on-offensive skilfulness, has for years been known as one of the world's greatest players.

His link-up play with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona was aesthetically pleasing to the eye, it was poetic football played with a destructive cutting edge; it was, at times, flawless. Goals came thick and fast for the Brazil international during his four-year tenure in Catalonia - 105 goals scored in 186 appearances for the Spanish giants was a hugely impressive return, a goal-return that would cement Neymar's stance among the world's elite.

There was always something standing in his way in Spain, though, something that he would never ever be able to block out no matter how hard he tried or how well he played: Lionel Messi. The world's best footballer is, quite frankly, impossible to surpass at club level.

Regardless of your goals, assists, achievements in the game, the Argentine will always, always pip you to the post with his continuous displays of superiority. Messi isn't human and I think now we have all accepted that, just like Neymar did two years ago when he decided that enough was enough and the time had come to move away from the Camp Nou.

Suarez Neymar Messi Barcelona
Neymar had to escape the clutches of Messi.

Left-field switch to Paris to escape the shadows

A fresh challenge was required for the then-25-year-old, desperate to show the world that he has what it takes to become the very best in the business. Where would he go? Crack the Premier League, perhaps? Something Lionel Messi has never done, something that would give him an edge on his former colleague. Failing that, do the unthinkable and trade alliances by moving to Real Madrid, go from hero to enemy to try and squash Barcelona with their fiercest rivals; Ronaldo still remained at the Bernabeu, though, that would have just been hopping from shadow to shadow, out of the question.

In the end, neither happened. Neymar instead moved to the French capital and signed a mega-money contract with Paris-Saint Germain in a move that not only caught the footballing world off guard, but also just felt so, so erratic. Besides the obvious lucrativeness of his deal at the Parc des Princes, the main draw of joining the Ligue 1 champions would have been the chance to be the leading actor in a glistening Hollywood production fronted by the QSI (Qatar Sports Investments) on the gold-paved streets of Paris. Fed up of being number two to Lionel Messi, the chance to enhance his own personal platform, alongside an astonishing £500,000-a-week contract was too good to turn down.

Nasser al-Khelaifi Neymar PSG
Paris-Saint Germain move was a travesty to his talents.

As expected, Neymar has taken to life in France effortlessly, continually finding the net against low-brow opposition who stand little-to-no chance of ever stopping him - he's too good. But everyone knew this would be the case, didn't they?

The 27-year-old's 51 goals in 58 appearances for PSG would be talked about for months on end had they have been scored in a respected, competitive league which carried clout, but they are merely just the bare minimum expected of this world-class superstar in Ligue 1. Nobody cares, not even Neymar, he just kicks the ball in the net and runs off, waiting to do it again in 20 minutes time.

PSG's success is determined entirely by their exploits in the Champions League, and as they continue to show, they are not good enough. The Parisians do not possess the know-how to win ugly because they are so used to steamrolling opponents in the league every week.

It was proven against Manchester United last season, when it almost looked harder to lose to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's makeshift squad in the second leg at the Parc des Princes after already finding themselves two goals to the good after the first tie in Manchester. But they did, capitulating with ease as the likes of Scott McTominay and Fred controlled the tempo of the match, and Marcus Rashford leathered home a late spot-kick to clinch the tie.

Neymar was a notable absentee for that clash against the Red Devils but would the result have been any different if he had been on the pitch? Like his club, the Brazilian finds it almost impossible to win ugly, and when the going gets tough he simply just loses interest and reverts into his shell, which is the exact thing that separates him from the world's very best. He is a superstar - that much is undeniable - but an irritating one covered in glitter and cotton wool that does not like it when the spontaneity of football diverts from his plan and takes a difficult turn, all the same.

No-show Neymar

The samba-starlet is possibly the most frustrating player on the planet - if he applied himself in the same way as Cristiano Ronaldo does then there is no limit to his potential, but he doesn't. He failed to show up to PSG training on Monday, with reports that he was out partying until the early hours following Brazil's victory in the Copa America final on Sunday evening, which is a telling sign of the level of respect he has for his current employers.

Speculation surrounding a potential return to Barcelona is now gaining credibility as PSG are growing tired of the Brazilian's antics off the pitch; the Frenchmen don't need Neymar like they did two years ago, he is not even their main man anymore. 20-year-old Kylian Mbappe is now the centre-piece on Thomas Tuchel's mantle place; Neymar has become more like a disgruntled, overpaid supporting actor who continues to be a thorn in the side of everybody at the Parc des Princes.

The problem is, Neymar is no longer a prospect. At 27, he is firmly in his prime as a football player and though there is no argument surrounding his quality, his level of application can no longer be put down to inexperience. With players like Kylian Mbappe shining so brightly at such a tender age and 19-year-old Joao Felix - who this week signed for Atletico Madrid for over £100 million - Neymar's importance in the footballing world is slowly starting to fritter away.

Truth be told, these young players are starting to embarrass the Brazilian a little, showing a maturity level well beyond their age, while he continues to throw toys out of prams and spit dummy's out of mouths when things do not go his way.

mbappe site
Mbappe is the captain now.

Copa America champions Brazil doing just fine without him

At international level, Neymar's absence from Brazil's recent Copa America triumph was so evidently not missed. A destructive front-line of Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Everton were more than capable when it came to scoring goals and guiding their country to their ninth Copa America title - their first in twelve years.

It would be hard to disagree with anyone claiming that Neymar is the Canaries' best player when fit, though there is damning proof that the team do not need him, they could just do with him if he's available, exactly like at PSG.

There is now a new wave of exciting footballers entering the game; each season seems to bring with it younger players who are ready for the very top-level of club football. Matthijs de Ligt and Frankie de Jong are frightening prospects and seem to have the right attitude, something you desperately need to realise your potential at the world's biggest clubs.

These names continue to fill newspaper headlines and fuel conversations between fans of the beautiful game down the pub, which in turn just pushes Neymar's relevance further down the pecking order.

Neymar's importance among the widespread footballing community will continue to diminish for as long as his 'spoilt brat' persona overshadows his actual ability as a hugely talented football player. With his latest antics considered, it is seems difficult to envisage him ever changing his destructive ways, but is anyone really that bothered anymore?

With younger talents continuing to take centre-stage, Neymar is getting left behind.

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