As the net shakes and the defenders fall over, let Neymar’s critics keep talking.
Neymar’s critics accuse Neymar of being all flash, but his flash is effective at producing goals, lots of goals.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and soccer debates are unwinnable, but criticisms of Neymar that go beyond critiquing a certain element of his game or pointing out areas of improvement are invalid.
No one can accuse Neymar of not being ready for physical and elite defenders because many of the best defenders in the world are Brazilians who come out of the Brasileirão, and many of the best defensive midfielders in the world are also Brazilians who developed in Brazilian academies and in Brazilian club soccer.
There are a lot of people, particularly fans of a certain brand of overly physical tackling and long ball soccer who pretend that Neymar is unproven and all hype, but video evidence going back several years disproves these claims.
The evidence shows Neymar excelling against elite competition in Brazil and in major tournaments, and this invalidates the critics who call Neymar a diving showman who hasn’t proven himself.
One piece of so-called evidence that Neymar’s critics point out is his lack of involvement in Santos’ loss to Barcelona in the 2011 Club World Cup, but this was a game where Barcelona played three playmakers at the same time (Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, and Cesc Fàbregas) in a line of three in order to totally control possession of the ball in the midfield.
Blaming Neymar for Santos’ midfield being outplayed by the best midfield in the world hardly proves that his skill-set isn’t already proven.
All this game proved was that Barcelona planned their entire game strategy around preventing Neymar from having any touches on the ball. In a way, this is evidence of how highly Barcelona rated Neymar.
A close examination of the evolution of Neymar’s skills and playing style since around 2009 show a player who has transformed from being a supremely talented dribbler with great two-footed scoring abilities to a player who has become a deft, skilled, and willing passer who covers a lot of territory with off the ball movement.
Neymar now roams the entire field showing his work rate and his willingness to constantly stamp his imprint on the game, and he isn’t the selfish showboat he’s made out to be.
Neymar does occasionally dive in the penalty box or in other areas around the field, but at the same time, Neymar is subjected to constant fouling and reckless tackles, which require Neymar to jump and pull up his knees to avoid injury.
There is diving in soccer, and players do go down in the penalty box with minimal contact to try to win a penalty kick. This is one of the things about soccer that annoys non-soccer fans and soccer fans alike, but, to avoid injury, Neymar frequently needs to jump, pull up his knees, and then roll to break his fall.
While they are cases of Neymar diving or simulating, there is also ample video evidence of Neymar being hacked and fouled.
Neymar probably ignores the fact that many people label him a diver because he knows he has avoided so many injuries by jumping and often launching himself clear of nasty tackles.
In addition to be labeled by some as a diver, many people call Neymar a showman who is all hype and unproven on the European battleground.
Let critics say that.
They also call Mario Balotelli a head case with a bad attitude who hasn’t produced; his club and international record even at Euro 2012 say otherwise.
There seems to be some unknown motivation behind criticism of Neymar, but whatever the reasons are, Neymar would appear to be a nice person who forms strong bounds with his teammates.
Neymar never brags about his abilities or makes disparaging comments about great players to whom he is compared.
Neymar is a joy to watch because all of his trickery and magic is effective in losing defenders, getting free to make a pass, creating scoring chances, and scoring goals.
It’s very unlikely that the best soccer player in Brazil who has played against so many elite opponents from all over the world even as a teenager would flop in European soccer or not be able to adapt.
Neymar has already learned how to play against strong and physical defenders by playing against Dedé, not to mention the other Seleção defenders he faces in practice for international games.
After playing against Dedé and Thiago Silva, no defender in Europe is going to present some unseen level of physicality, strength, and defensive skill.
Critics who go as far as calling Neymar all hype and unproven because he doesn’t play in Europe, as opposed to reasonably criticizing areas of his game to improve, are just gas bags.
Read a detailed break down of Neymar’s game here.