Neymar Is Still a Level Above Kylian Mbappe in Quality

After Paris Saint-Germain crushed Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Champions League, all the praise fell on Kylian Mbappe. Several prominent pundits at ESPN even said that the Frenchman was better than Neymar, an absolute master.

Obviously, such praise is way overblown. For starters, Neymar is technically perfect with both feet, and his completeness ranges from free kick ability to world-class passing to clinical finishing. That’s not to say that Mbappe doesn’t have tons of quality, but his game can’t be said to be equal to Neymar yet. When several ESPN pundits made their comments, Steve Nicol, also of ESPN, was quick to say that Neymar was way too good to say such things.

Craig Burley was the main pundit rating Mbappe over Neymar, which is a continuation of the little slights and jabs that Burley has been taking at Neymar.

Mbappe’s speed and directness really stands out to people. It’s quite striking to see him just blaze past people like he’s gliding on ice. Mbappe is extremely skilled and smooth, but he’s not on Neymar’s level. Many people say that the Brazilian is even more skilled than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. To compare Mbappe to Neymar already is disrespectful to the PSG Number 10, who is clearly the team’s best player and key figure.

As fast as Neymar is, Mbappe is much faster. Based on the eye test, nobody in world football is as fast as Mbappe. There might be a few players close, but it looks as if Mbappe is the fastest. The ability to be technical and smooth at that speed makes the Frechman so hard to defend.

Against Bayern, Mbappe’s skill was on display. Several occasions really stand out. The first of course was how he totally bamboozled David Alaba by slowing rolling the ball to the left rather than shooting or accelerating. Alaba was left for dead in a display of true mastery of the ball. It was this play that likely caused so much praise around the world. The slow role with the bottom of his foot was uncommon and surprising, and who knows how he rolled it so gently off a full sprint? A player who was all speed could have never pulled off such a glorious fake.

In addition to this fake, there were several nicely weighted chipped passes, and there were lots of times the Frechman blew past his defender. Even some in the Brazilian press highlighted Mbappe’s play that game over Neymar’s.

Nevertheless, at this point it’s unlikely that Mbappe will beat Neymar to the Ballon d’Or. The Frenchman will continue to get better, but so will Neymar. The Brazilian has lightning pace, but the Frenchman’s pace is unrivaled. Mbappe will have to display more of his skill, passing, and scoring ability to be on Neymar’s level, but he will definitely push Neymar to get even better.

People used to take shots at the original Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and it seems Neymar is also subject to criticism from various sources, which isn’t new for him. Many people seemed eager to diminish Neymar’s talent and body of work once again.

 

Isco Has Reached Superstar and World-Class Status

Isco recently destroyed Italy in a World Cup qualifier with two goals and one memorable, ruthless, and disrespectful sole-roll nutmeg on Marco Verratti, one of the best midfielders in the world. Isco’s two goals were against Gigi Buffon, perhaps the best goalkeeper of all time. One was a free kick with his right foot and one was a left-footed goal to the far post from the run of play that he created out of nothing.

After the loss to Italy and speaking to AS, Italy’s coach Gian Piero Ventura had this to say about Isco, “All I can think about is that nutmeg he pulled off in midfield – and the coolness and integrity you need to do something like that. When I saw it, all I could do was applaud – he’s a rival, he’s on the opposing team but I am just as much a lover of the beautiful things in this game as anyone.”

In the last year or so Isco has gone from an underappreciated star to a superstar playing for the best club team in the world. But, there wasn’t always room for Isco in Real Madrid’s starting lineup, but now Isco has become a player that Zidane cannot leave on the bench at Real Madrid. Rob Train’s article for ESPN FC linked to above was particularly entertaining and educational in detailing Isco’s rise.

The Spanish attacking midfielder used to be somewhat one-footed, favoring his right foot, but now he really uses left foot and scores with it.

His directness makes him deadly, and he quickly advances play with his dribbling or incisive passing. He also has a rocket of a shot, but his placement and mastery of ballstriking techniques is world class as well.

As good as Spain are and as many great players as they have, Isco is the best Spanish player unless Andrés Iniesta is feeling truly inspired, and like Iniesta Isco has a combination of world-class passing and dribbling ability that give him few equals.

Isco is now starting as the playmaker or Number 10 for both Spain and Real Madrid, and that shows you just how great he is.

 

Milan Would Be Wise to Keep M’Baye Niang

Maybe this is a hot take, but even with all of Milan’s summer signings, it would be a shame if Milan let M’Baye Niang go instead of incorporating him into the team.

As a player, the French forward has world-class speed, excellent technical ability and creativity, and a frenetic work rate. Niang’s 1v1 abilities are first rate, and he also has an excellent left foot despite being right footed. Anyone who has seen Niang play can testify to his electric style of play, and it’s a wonder that Milan are even open to selling him. It sometimes feels like clubs are too quick to push good players out on an ice flow.

Watching Niang at full speed with or without the ball is a sight to see, and when you combine this with outstanding technical ability, you have to give the Frenchman his due.

Even for a forward playing in Serie A, you would have to describe Niang’s skill level as first-rate. The dribbling, passing, and shooting showcased by the French attacker stands out from others on the field, and he is also a dead ball specialist who can score off a free kick or put in excellent balls off corner kicks.

In today’s modern football, clubs are willing to buy and sell players so quickly, and a talent like Niang obligates the coach to put in some extra time to cultivate a special talent. No one has ever accused Niang of not running enough or not playing hard enough, and if you combine that with his individual dribbling skill at pace and from a stop, you have to wonder what exactly Milan is doing.

Niang has received some criticism for not scoring more goals, and others have made the claim that Niang must improve his finishing. But, based on several of Niang’s excellent goals with his weaker left foot from the run of play, you’d have to question whether or not the French striker even has a problem with finishing. Someone can question his finishing, but it gets harder to support such a claim when you rewatch several of his goals.

Niang once missed a goal in the Champions League vs. Barcelona when his shot nicked off the post, but it was just a close miss off the post that even a blade of grass or a drop of water on the field could have caused.

He is a flashy player, but Niang’s play always creates problem’s for opposing defenses and opens up games. He isn’t a player whose fancy tricks hinder his team from building up a rhythm. When Niang plays he makes Milan more dangerous and direct.

No matter what you hear or read about Niang, don’t forget to watch him for yourself. The Frenchman has an ease with executing tricks and blowing past defenders, and many of these tricks are tricks that very few players can actually pull off at pace in games against strong competition. Niang’s tricks and moves aren’t fruitless, but rather they are highly effective at eluding defenders and getting into the penalty box.

Niang has been called a prodigy and a phenomenon for a reason, and his electric and creative play is always accompanied by non-stop running and working for the team. The French striker can’t be accused of walking around the field or checking out of games.

Maybe it’s an opinion in the minority, but selling an extremely fast and technical player like Niang seems like a shortsighted decision of the “grass is always greener” mentality, especially since the Frenchman isn’t a burner but an attacker with elite skill on the ball.

Below is a video of his highlights from last season, and his electric play and skill are on full display:

 

Free Range Neymar Shows Out in Home Debut for Paris Saint-Germain

In his first game as a Paris Saint-Germain player in the Parc des Princes, Neymar ran amok and humiliated Toulouse with his individual skill and ability to create for his teammates. Neymar had two goals and two assists in his home debut, and he didn’t let the crowd down.

There’s no doubt that playing without Lionel Messi has freed Neymar up to express himself more on the field, and that led to plenty of goals and assists for Paris Saint-Germain. Despite all the praise heaped on Neymar for his solo play, the Brazilian is a team player with a track record of taking his teams far.

Julio Gomes of UOL lamented Neymar’s playmaker position in his first PSG game against Guingamp away, but in Neymar’s home debut, Gomes felt that Neymar was playing his free role on the left on paper as he does for Brazil. For me, there was no difference; Neymar was free to go wherever he wanted.

While Neymar did trash plenty of Toulouse players off the dribble, you can’t really say that he was selfish or the proverbial ball hog, but there was some talk of whether or not Neymar was being disrespectful to his opponents by really showing them up.

The counter argument to this is of course that Neymar was paid to play his personal brand of flair and skill soccer, and there is the other counterargument that soccer is for entertainment. People come to the games and watch on TV and online to be entertained. If Neymar leaves someone for dead with a rainbow, then that’s fair.

This was statement game for Neymar, if you can say this for someone who is already easily the third best player in the world, and maybe the second best player in the world. This was the first time that Neymar was the leader of his own team in Europe in a big venue, and the Brazilian definitely did not disappoint. You have to remember that PSG is absolutely loaded with elite and world-class players, so the fact that Neymar stands out so much for his individual skill and speed of play and speed of thought really says something.

Neymar was everywhere for PSG, and leaving Barcelona is letting Neymar show more of his game. The PSG and Brazil Number 10 looks more versatile than Messi, if it’s safe to say that without being dogpiled by keyboard warriors on the internet. Whereas Messi has his trademark Stratavarius left foot as Ray Hudson of BeIN Sports calls it, Neymar uses both feet interchangeably to dribble, pass, and shoot.

Neymar is the man on fire right now, and no one would blame you for watching Neymar play instead of a Barcelona game.

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:

https://blogdojuliogomes.blogosfera.uol.com.br/2017/08/13/neymar-estreia-a-la-messi-armando-jogo-e-mais-longe-do-gol/

“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

Areola

Daniel Alves-Marquinhos-Thiago Silva-Kurzawa

Verratti-Motta-Matuidi

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.