Translation: Neymar debuts in a Messi role, playmaking and farther from goal


Julio Gomes has a blog for the Brazilian site, UOL Esporte, where he recently wrote the following article about Neymar:

“Neymar estreia “à la Messi”, armando jogo e mais longe do gol”

Translation: Neymar debuts in a Messi role, playmaking and farther from goal

Here is the link for the article, and the translation from Brazilian Portuguese is below:

“Neymar had a good debut in a Paris Saint-Germain jersey. He scored the third goal in the 3-0 victory over tiny Guingamp, off a pass from Cavani – the Uruguayan had scored the second, off the first assist of Neymar for PSG. The floodgates (lit. can) had been opened on Guingamp’s pathetic own goal at the start of the second half.

A goal, an assist, a nutmeg, a good cross that Marquinhos headed into the crossbar. Nothing to complain about.

I am a voice out of order from the majority in the analysis of the soccer of Neymar. The guy is a baller, of this there is no doubt. But, from my point of view, his principal quality is finishing.

With this, I don’t mean that he isn’t a good dribbler or that he doesn’t know how to be the playmaker. I’m just saying that the best version of Neymar is that in which he plays really close to goal, receiving clean balls and with few adversaries in front of him. Preferably, at speed. He has a finishing rate on the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and other finishers around the world.

In four seasons at Barcelona, Neymar scored 88 goals from open play. 40 of those with just one touch on the ball, 39 with a controlling touch and finish and only 9 where he created his own goal.

In his debut, the goal came with one touch on the ball. It’s logical that that proportion is going to change at PSG. He played as a 10. The change of a jersey number never was too loyal to a tactical change. He played Messi’s position at various times with Barcelona, receiving balls in the middle of various adversaries (as the photo below shows). It’s fine. The comparisons will become even easier.

Last season, the first one of coach Unai Emery, Paris almost always played with two players quite wide – including Draexler, Di Maria, and Lucas. This Sunday, Neymar and Di Maria played centrally, opening up the channels for the outside backs. It’s just that it practically ripped the game away from the Italian Verratti, who was originally the principal playmaker of the team.

Daniel Alves had few surges down the right side, with time he will acquire more linkup with the Argentinean. Kurzawa advanced a lot into the space that would have been Neymar’s down the left. From him came the cross that later ended up as a goal for Neymar.

That wasn’t what happened in his debut. He was an attacking midfielder in fact, a playmaker, the principal builder of all the plays. He was more an Isco or Rodriguinho or an Inesta than a Neymar. He was more Verratti than Verratti. This didn’t work out that well on the Seleção in a few moments of slim pickin’s pre-Tite,

He occupied a part of the field where there was more people, more congestion. And he stayed too far from goal.

In the first half, PSG, despite having the ball all the time, created very few chances of real danger. In the second half, they won a present from Ikoko, one of the most bizarre own goals that everyone had seen in our lives.

And then, yes, the game changed. It became easy. PSG came to have more openings. On one occasion, in a counter attack, Neymar played a marvelous pass for Cavani to score a second goal. His first assist with the new jersey.

The number of assists will inevitably increase. But it’s good to jump back to the fact that Neymar already provided many assists at Barcelona. This didn’t necessarily happen by having the position of playmaker.

Honestly, I don’t think that he’ll keep this position, and it’s fair that the coach tries it in a game against a weak adversary like Guingamp.

In the nick of time, I believe that Emery is going to prefer Neymar playing more to the left, closer to goal, where he is much more productive.

If the plan for leaving Barcelona and going to PSG was to be the protagonist and play like Messi, it seems that he will really be in his position. He’s going to be lacking… playing like Messi.”


Neymar Plays Number 10 Role in Paris Saint-Germain Debut

Neymar Plays Number 10 Role in PSG Debut

Embed from Getty Images

Neymar made his Paris Saint-Germain debut last Sunday against Guingamp, and the $263 million Brazilian provided a goal, an assist, and a nutmeg for good measure. There was also a cross to Marquinhos, which the defender hit off the crossbar.

Neymar was lining up out left on paper, but the Brazil and PSG Number 10 was playing in a playmaking position as an attacking midfielder, more central than he would be at Barcelona, his former club.

Neymar had the ball constantly for PSG on Sunday, and his teammates had no problem handing over the keys to the team to him and letting him run the show, as was his due.

Every other touch for PSG seemed to be a Neymar touch. Neymar would play the ball to a teammate who would play it back to Neymar, and the Brazilian would then play the ball to someone else. No doubt PSG improved immediately with the addition of Neymar, but with Neymar PSG got an unselfish teammate.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Guingamp wasn’t that bad. A Guingamp own goal opened up the game in the second half, but Neymar’s excellent debut can’t be attributed to a poor opponent.

Jonathan Johnson of ESPN gave Ángel Di Maria a poor rating of 3 for the game, and the Argentinean’s so-so performance could open up a spot for Javier Pastore to start. Julio Gomes of UOL in Brazil wrote that Neymar’s best position is closer to goal, but a player like Neymar has a bigger impact on the game the more he has the ball. If Pastore does start the next game, Neymar will probably be closer to goal, or at least he might receive more passes in scoring positions.

Neymar was lively and impressive in his PSG debut, and the more we see Neymar playing without Lionel Messi, the more everyone will be able to gauge how Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar really compare to one another.

Playing for PSG could be Neymar’s first step in improving his chances to win the Ballon d’Or over Messi and Ronaldo.


Why PSG is Good for Neymar


Neymar to Paris Saint Germain is a good move for Neymar. A great move. A smart move.

At PSG, Neymar can play the Number 10 role where he can showcase his playmaking and scoring skills, and Javier Pastore even handed over his Number 10 to Neymar.

PSG is a team worthy of Neymar. The French club is a storied club that even Ronaldinho played for. For all of the hype that the English Premier League receives, most of the EPL clubs never had the best player in the world playing for them. There’s talk of the Paris side not having the caliber of players that Barcelona has, but this isn’t really true.

Neymar Has Elite Teammates at PSG

Three world-class defenders all start for PSG: Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, and Marquinhos. That’s a right back and two center backs which comprises three of the four members of the Paris backline.

The French side also have Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, and Thiago Motta in the midfield, and Verratti is arguably the best center midfielder in the world along with Arturo Vidal of Chile and Bayern Munich.

PSG isn’t without creativity and magic already. Who can forget that Javier Pastore plays for PSG? Pastore is arguably the best playmaker in the world along with Andrés Iniesta and Dimitri Payet of France and Olympique Marseille. When healthy, Pastore is a regular starter for Argentina, and he has made a name for himself in Ligue 1 for embarrassing defenders with nutmegs. The Argentinean attacking midfielder and forward from Córdoba is exactly the type of player that Neymar likes to play with. Pastore has had some injury problems, but he’s nevertheless a player who plays the brand of soccer than Neymar plays, which is are indeed.

Paris’ starting striker Edinson Cavani is widely regarded as one of the best center forwards in the world, and so Neymar will have an elite striker to feed and play off. A Number 9 like Cavani draws defenders to him, and this frees up Neymar to score more goals.

The Brazilian also has Ángel Di Maria and Lucas Moura on his team, and while Lucas is still not at his peak, Di María is easily one of the best players in all of world football.

Neymar will not be lacking for quality and support when he plays for Paris, even if PSG isn’t as storied as Barcelona and Real Madrid. You could argue that PSG was simply lacking the type of player that Real Madrid and Barcelona had. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were both the difference for those two teams which separated them from other teams in the Champions League.

Ligue 1 Is One of the Top Leagues in Europe

Besides PSG, Ligue 1 has Monaco, Marseille, Nice, and Lyon, and France has always produced a steady stream of world-class players. You can’t really argue that the technical quality or athleticism of Ligue 1 is poor. No one who has watched French football would ever say that. If anything, Ligue 1 has more technical quality and better passing than the EPL.

Neymar Can Play His Best Position at PSG

Many people view the left wing or at least the left side of the attack as Neymar’s best position, and while Neymar was playing there for Barcelona, Messi was the player who drifted centrally, which prevented Neymar from occupying that space.

There’s an argument to be made that Barcelona’s attack was very fluid with Messi, Suárez, and Neymar all moving all over the attack, but Messi was normally occupying the space right behind Suárez in the attack. A player likes Neymar wants to receive and release the ball constantly all over the field, so that he can control the team’s passing and attacking build up.

No matter how associated Neymar is with the left side of the attack, the Brazilian is more effective and influential in the middle where he has space to operate to the right and to the left, and Neymar has an outstanding weaker left foot, which he doesn’t hesitate to use more or less interchangeably with his right foot.

The Brazilian loses something when he doesn’t play with Messi, who creates non-stop scoring chances, but Neymar is at a level where he doesn’t need to be dependent on that type of service and windfall. Messi does produce a ton of assists, but you could argue that Messi’s primary concern is to collect the ball himself, dribble through everyone, and score.

When Neymar plays with Messi, Barcelona is all about Messi, so a move to PSG lets Neymar play the way that he wants to play, which ultimately gives him a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or and the World Cup with Brazil.


Where Will Neymar Line Up with Paris Saint-Germain?

Where Will Neymar Line Up with Paris Saint-Germain?

Neymar has normally lined up out left in the attack for both Brazil and Barcelona, but he has always performed his best when he has the space to drift into the center of the attack behind the striker to orchestrate goals and score goals.

Neymar covers a lot of territory as a player. He likes to drop deep into the midfield to collect the ball, and he likes being able to play passes to the left or to the right.

At Barcelona, Messi would normally collect the ball out on the right and immediately cut into the center of the field to attack the defense and feed his teammates.

In recent years, one of the trademark plays of Messi was to play chips over the defense to his onrushing teammates. Messi played nonstop chips and through balls for his teammates to score while also playing passes and then bursting forward to receive the ball back again. All of this was great, but it prevented Neymar from occupying this playmaking role.

With PSG, Neymar will be the focal point of the team as he is with Brazil, and no matter where he lines up on paper, he’s going to be in the center of the attack behind Edinson Cavani or whoever is playing striker. Neymar’s playmaker role will affect how much Javier Pastore and Julian Draxler play.

In a perfect world, starting Neymar and Pastore together would be the best thing for PSG. Pastore is a Number 10, but he has less scoring tendencies than Neymar. The Argentinean wouldn’t get in Neymar’s way. The difference between playing with Pastore and playing with Messi is that Neymar was essentially forced to defer to Messi. Although Pastore is a world-class playmaker, you have the sense that he knows how to get out of Neymar’s way. If Neymar goes into the center, Pastore would just go wide, and vice versa.

Neymar and Pastore starting together is possible, but Angel Di Maria will most likely start over Pastore. Di Maria plays on the right wing where he can cut onto his left foot, and this would put Neymar in a similar system to the one he played in at Barcelona.

Many people view Neymar has an attacker that plays on the left side, but anyone who has watched Neymar play for Brazil knows that Neymar shifts into the middle where he can orchestrate the attack and control the team’s passing. The same thing will likely happen at Paris Saint-Germain.


Where Neymar Will Line up for PSG


Daniel Alves-Marquinhos-Thiago Silva-Kurzawa


Di Maria-Cavani-Neymar


Neymar Should Go to Paris Saint-Germain and Leave Messi’s Shadow

Neymar Should Go to Paris Saint-Germain and Leave Messi’s Shadow

Lionel Messi is holding Neymar back at Barcelona. Despite all the benefits of playing with Messi, Neymar doesn’t have the freedom to really play his game while playing alongside the world’s best player.

Messi likes to cut inside from the right and occupy the center of the attack behind Luis Suárez, and this prevents Neymar from occupying this same zone where he can orchestrate the attack and score more goals. The counter argument to this is that Neymar and Messi display a free-flowing style of combination play that creates lots of goals, but Neymar always has to defer to Messi.

When Neymar plays with Brazil, he’s a team player just like he is with Barcelona, but Neymar doesn’t have to limit his involvement and impact like he does with Barcelona. As long as Neymar plays with Messi, he’ll have to mostly stay on the left side of the field and stay out of Messi’s way.The Brazilian has shown that he can play with another superstar and that he keeps a good attitude while deferring to another player, but now is the time to lead his own European club team. Anyone of Neymar’s ability would look to play for a big team where he can be the primary attacking weapon and lead the team. This doesn’t make Neymar selfish or greedy. Messi just turned 30 years old, and he will likely be playing at a world-class and elite level until he is 35. This would be five more years of Neymar toning down his impact and flair to defer to Messi.

Going to Paris Saint-Germain would be an excellent move for Neymar because he would be able to be the Number 10 for a team full of other elite talents. PSG has an outstanding group of defenders and great midfielders would be provide Neymar with a complete team, and this sort of switch would be great for European football. It would distribute more of the truly elite talent away from just two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Neymar should transfer to PSG for his own interests. At PSG, Neymar has a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or and continuing to improve his game. As long as Neymar plays with Messi, Neymar can’t play the Number 10 role, and he has less touches on the ball. Neymar is a Number 10, and he can’t truly play this role while being married to the left side of the field at Barcelona.

Leaving Messi was inevitable for the Brazilian. Messi is still in his prime, and staying at Barcelona for five more years as Messi’s second in command would be a bad choice for Neymar. Neymar is much better than he gets credit for, but no one is really going to know that as long as he has to only show 70% of his ability while playing with Messi.

Under Coach Tite Brazil Is Back

Tite Revives the Seleção with New Tactics

Brazil’s new boss, Tite, changed Brazil’s lineup and formation in a brilliant way. He used three central midfielders knowing that Brazil’s famous outside backs would provide plenty of width in the attack while Neymar and Coutinho up top gave the team plenty of creation and free-floating attackers to score and pass.

Let’s not forget that Brazil have found a new Number 9 in Gabriel Jesus. Brazilian soccer had been devoid of dangerous center forwards until Palmeiras’ and now Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus emerge as an excellent striker. Brazil hadn’t had an exciting center forward in years, but now the Seleção has one.

Tite separated himself from his predecessors by starting Coutinho as well, rather than starting Douglas Costa and Willian. Those are two great attacking midfielders or wingers, but Coutinho is a more creative attacking midfielder who is even harder to contain. Tite set both Neymar and Coutinho loose to play as Number 10s or wingers as they saw fit, and both know how to play free-flowing football.

With Casemiro injured,  Fernandinho, Paulinho, and Renato August proved to be a winning trio of central midfielders where Fernandinho played as the defensive midfielder, Paulinho played as the box-to-box midfielder, and Renato Augusto played as an attacking midfielder. Of course the team was really built around Neymar and Coutinho running the attack with Gabriel Jesus being a dream of a center forward. Without Gabriel Jesus, the team’s roles might have lacked enough definition, and he allowed Neymar and Coutinho to play in their preferred roles.

The most surprising thing about Tite as coach of the Seleção is that by going with a formation and a lineup that looked more defensive because it had three central midfielders he was actually taking Brazil back to free-flowing, attacking, and creative soccer. Tite must have decided than Coutinho was too good not to start in an attacking role with Neymar, and Coutinho brings more to the team than Willian and Douglas Costa.

Brazil is back to dominating South American soccer, and the Seleção also appear to be the best team in the world again. Germany, Italy, France, and Argentina will always be Brazil’s biggest competition, but Brazil is back to be the national team par excellence under Tite.


Italy Wrong to Omit Mario Balotelli Again

Italy Wrong to Omit Mario Balotelli Again

Mario Balotelli’s reputation for misbehavior and some lack of maturity is really more of a media construct than a reality. Italy’s coach Giampiero Ventura left Balotelli off its most recent World Cup qualifying roster, but Balotelli has performed excellently for Italy in the past when it really mattered.

Italy is of course always open to recalling Balotelli, but it seems that Balotelli’s excellent form for Nice in Ligue 1 is being minimized due to minor comical incidents in the past that don’t matter.

It makes sense to contend that only two months of consistent, excellent form isn’t that much, but Italy doesn’t really have any other center forwards of Balotelli’s quality and experience. It’s also important to remember that Balotelli is a big-game player who really delivers under pressure. While Zaza can lead the line and Ciro Immobile is a talented striker, the thing about Balotelli is that he’s a world-class talent who really can score on anyone at any time.

The striker’s current form and goal-scoring rate more than merit a national team call-up for at least a back-up striker position. With Balotelli, one gets the sense that harmless, funny anecdotes about Balotelli are blown way of proportion. It’s a shame that Balotelli constantly has his past held against him. Currently, Balotelli is scoring a game per game for an excellent team in Nice, and an Italy selection based on current form and performances is warranted.

Additionally, there’s a strong argument that any possibility of Balotelli picking up a silly card is far outweighed by his ability to win games and score for Italy. Like other Italy coaches, Ventura was quick to say that no one has ever doubted Balotelli’s technical ability and overall quality as a player, but Balotelli’s two-month run of excellent form is still deemed to be not long enough. Maybe not starting Balotelli for Italy is a justifiable position, but not even having him as a center forward option off the bench comes off as being too confident in Italy’s ability to easily qualify from their group.

Good reports about Balotelli’s behavior from Nice should shift the focus back to Balotelli’s actual abilities. As a player, the Italian striker is excellent stretching the defense, holding up play, finishing with both feet, beating players 1v1, and taking and scoring off set pieces. Balotelli is an amazing athlete with world-class technical skill who doesn’t need to be told to aggressively attack the goal. More than a goal-scorer, Balotelli is a complete player who can quickly combine with his teammates with short 1-2 touch passes, and he can pass over distance and unlock defense. Matteo Bonetti of beIN Sports has often pointed out how Balotelli’s passing ability and style of play perhaps makes him more of a second striker than a Number 9, and this is another example of Balotelli’s range of skills.

A return to international soccer for the Italian would be good for Italy and good for the sport, as Balotelli is the type of player who brings quality and magic to the game. No matter how soon Balotelli returns to the Italy squad, he needs to continue his great form with Nice so criticisms of his behavior and mentality are a thing of the past.


Time for Neymar to step out of the Messi Shadow

Time for Neymar to step out of the Messi Shadow

After losing a match to Manchester City in the Champions League, Barcelona has been underperforming, and somebody on the team needs to make up for this. Neymar is one player who can look to be even more impactful in order to inspire his teammates because, while Barcelona is famous for its attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luís Suárez, and Neymar, people think of Messi when they think of Barcelona.

One of the things that makes Neymar a world-class player is his ability to play in and for a team. While Neymar is arguably the most technically-skilled player in the world, even more so than the untouchable Lionel Messi, Neymar knows how to play within a team framework and improve his teammates. The same cannot really be said of Cristiano Ronaldo.

To be fair to Neymar, he doesn’t really defer too much to Messi, but he should view himself as good or better than Messi. Messi himself would play as good or better with a more assertive Neymar, so Neymar’s looking to dominate games more wouldn’t impede Messi from continuing to play more or less the same.

Messi loves to cut in from the right wing, and Neymar has been really impressive when he’s played more centrally, even if playing out left is where he has normally played. Messi’s game is all about his left foot, and Neymar is a truly two-footed player, who uses his weaker left foot to dribble, pass, and shoot.

Andrés Iniesta is injured, and this presents an opportunity for Neymar to claim the role as Barcelona’s primary playmaker. Let Messi play out to the right and continue to cut inside onto his left foot; this doesn’t stop Neymar from playing centrally behind Luís Suárez and Messi.

In a soccer world dominated by Messi and Ronaldo, the fact that Neymar possesses a better skill-set than both goes under the radar. Neymar could be said to be a combination of a Number 10 player and a Number 11, and this makes his game extremely versatile where he can focus on playmaker or focus on playing off of a center forward. If an opponent looks to shut down Neymar’s scoring, then he can focus on setting up his teammates to score.

Maybe it would be better for Neymar to play for a different team, but even without leaving Barcelona, there is room for Neymar to boss games more than he does. Neymar can beat virtually any opponent – or crowds of opponents- off the dribble, and Neymar can destroy defenses with his passing as well. As a goal-scorer Neymar is prolific, and he scores with both feet and his head.

As Barcelona’s play features Messi, Suárez, and Neymar combining together, any improvement in Neymar’s play and work-rate just results in the other two playing better as well, but Neymar needs to make more of an effort to no longer just be Messi’s sidekick because Neymar is too good to accept this role.

Neymar is an electrifying player who is arguably the world’s most skilled player and the world’s best 1v1 dribbling because of his arsenal of tricks and fakes, and he should look to lead Barcelona just as he leads Brazil.

Pogba Early Leader for PFA Player of the Year

Paul Pogba is the early leader for the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year Award 

Paul Pogba has an early lead for the Professional Footballers Association’s award for Player of the Season in the English Premier League. In his first two games back with Manchester United after the same club hilariously let him go to Juventus for free, Pogba has looked like a professional playing an exhibition game against amateurs. A British pundit commented that Pogba looked like the best kid on the school playground dominating all of the other kids.

If Pogba weren’t so effective, he could almost be accused of playing too selfishly, but he’s involving his teammates too much to accuse him of this. His ability to dribble through crowds and embarrass opponents with the ball at his feet gives him free license to play the way that he’s playing. His individual play has been very effective because when he has the ball Manchester United is constantly getting in scoring positions. He has played so well that his teammates have all adapted to just letting him run the show. Even Ibrahimovic has been playing in his trademark style without getting in Pogba’s way.

The only minor critique that could be made of Pogba is that he’s not utilizing his left foot enough, but his technique and ability with his left foot have already been on display plenty of times. Pogba should use his left foot more since greats like Zinedine Zidane, Brazilian Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and so many others used both feet to dominate opponents and win titles and awards.

Although Pogba’s ability as a two-way midfielder is so impressive, it’s difficult to not focus on his dribbling brilliance. Only Neymar, Lionel Messi, and few others are better 1v1 dribblers than Pogba, and Pogba also shields the ball so well that opponents frequently can’t even get close to the ball when Pogba is static with the ball.

Pogba was always expected to be outstanding in the EPL, but he has been embarrassing opponents so far. Once Manchester United face off against better opponents, Pogba will likely have to dribble less and pass sooner, but that’s not a problem for him.


The Luxury Player Fallacy

The Luxury Player Fallacy

The attacking midfielder or Number 10 shirt is often the most decisive and important player on any soccer team. Having a true Number 10 gives a team a player who can decide the game with one inspired or magical play. In major tournaments, having a gifted playmaker gives a team an edge over a team without one.

Often this type of playmaker is labeled a “luxury player” by many people. The accusation being that this type of player is surplus to requirements for not being a player who contributes much defensively or one who puts the ball in the back of the net. The problem with this mentality is that this supposedly luxury player is vital to linking the midfield to the attack and creating goals. Goals are the most important thing in soccer, and having a playmaker puts the primary goalscorer in the position to have more scoring opportunities.

Players like Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, and Pelé have always separated their team from the others. At the highest levels of soccer, every team has technical and athletic players at every position, and only the magicians and grandmasters can break the deadlock. Besides the Number 10 players, a prolific center forward like Brazil’s Ronaldo is the other most valuable player. Of course, every position is vital and valuable, but finding a Number 10 and a Number 9 is the hardest thing for a coach.

In the last two World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014, we saw two Number 10s decide the game with goals themselves. Andrés Iniesta, an absolutely legendary Number 10, scored the winning goal in 2010 for Spain. In 2014, Mario Götze, another Number 10 who is often left on the bench by coaches for being a luxury player, scored the winning goal for Germany. It was a goal that only an absolute master could have scored. There was no time to think before he struck the ball and no angle to beat the goalkeeper, but he scored anyway. So the last two World Cups were decided by Number 10s, and we still hear these players called “luxury players.”

With eleven players on a side and normally almost seven players designated as defensive players, it makes little sense for one of the remaining four players to not be an attacking midfielder or playmaker. How else will a team unlock the defense, connect the midfield to the attack, and score goals? You can’t really expect the ball to make its way to the striker or strikers with a midfield stuffed with defensive midfielders.

Too many coaches and teams continue to push this mentality of the “luxury player” and the game of soccer suffers as a result of it. There is a direct connection between technical skill and winning.