Brazil's Neymar grimaces in pain after being fouled during their men's soccer final gold medal match against Mexico at Wembley Stadium during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 11, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Paul Hanna (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER OLYMPICS))
Pele. Romario. Ronaldo. Ronaldinho. Rivaldo. Cafu. Kaka. The list could probably go on and on as Brazil has produced some of the greatest soccer players in the world. Every few years a new name crops up as the new chosen one of Brazilian soccer and he is expected to lead his country to world supremacy. A few of the aforementioned names failed to deliver on their promise but one up and coming star is expected to take up their mantle and carry it in the upcoming World Cup.
The man is Neymar, the young 21-year old star of Santos who is highly coveted by a plethora of European sides. Neymar made a star turn at last year's Olympics in London, even though his team wound up short in the final. However, Neymar's recent performances for his club and country have called his abilities into question and many are starting to wonder if he is the new leader of Brazilian soccer.
According to Goal.com, "Cries of 'bottler' were directed at [Neymar] (in Portuguese of course) during Brazil's 1-1 draw against Russia at Stamford Bridge, while he also heard boos from Santos supporters at their last home game."
As if that wasn't bad enough, he has been the target of a war of words with England's Joey Barton who took offense to Neymar's indifference toward him. After Brazil's 2-1 win over Brazil back in February, Neymar stated that he did not know Barton and the Englishman retorted with aggressive comments on Twitter. After Neymar failed against Russia in the 1-1 draw, Barton tweeted "Neymar is the Justin Bieber of football. Brilliant on the old You Tube. Cat piss in reality."
While Barton's words are the words of a scorned player, they underline a growing sentiment toward the 21-year old phenom who is expected to be the centerpiece in Brazil's World Cup campaign in 2014. However, his week performances have created an increasing frustration that has had many questioning his abilities to lead the squad to victory.
"Neymar can help Brazil to be champion, but I don't see him doing what I did in 1994, Pele in his three World Cups or Maradona in 1986," Former Brazilian star Romario said this weekend in reference to Neymar being able to carry Brazil.
Many have attributed this to his lack of development out of Brazil. Some Brazilian legends such as Zico and Rivaldo have stated that Neymar will only improve if he learns to compete in the top leagues in the world. "You need experience at the World Cup and the best way to gain experience is to play against the best, which is the case in Europe," said Rivaldo back in October about the young Brazilian stars, including Neymar. "These players have to make the move to Europe as soon as possible."