Neymar: the new Robinho or just another Lulinha?
Anyone who has followed Brazilian football in recent years would have seen this all before. A talented teenager does a few things in a handful of reserve games or at one of the junior levels for his country, is hailed as the next best thing since sliced bread and is immediately linked with every big club in Europe.
In 2008, it was Grêmio’s Douglas Costa. Earlier this year, Internacional’s Walter was in the spotlight and now it’s the turn of Santos’ 17-year-old forward, Neymar.
Naturally, any player that comes up at Santos is going to be compared to Robinho and even occasionally, Pelé. What is unusual is that the former Santos great has even gone on record as saying that Neymar could be better than him (though Pelé also said recently that Robinho and Ronaldo had a drug problem before later retracting his statement).
Neymar made his debut against Paulista FC on 12th March in the Campeonato Paulista and has got off to a very good start scoring three goals in five games.
At times the youngster has showed a maturity well beyond his years. The player is clearly skilful, has learned some neat tricks, is pacey, and above all is confident. And while his displays have been more than competent for a teenager, we’re all still waiting for Neymar to live up to the hype and do something really special.
Of course, our high expectations have nothing to do with Neymar directly. He is merely the victim of a publicity machine that has gone into overdrive. The São Paulo press have also done their part to add to the frenzy.
Neymar is just one in long list of players at Santos who have been tipped for greatness. Not so long ago it was the likes of Tiago Luís, Wescley, Renatinho, and Moraes. Never heard of them? Well, that’s no surprise. While it’s true that the hype never reached the same heights as it has with Neymar, the players all had huge price tags slapped on them and were linked with a myriad of clubs in Europe.
Santos are said to be asking around 30 million euros for their current forward. If you are to believe the press, this has not put off Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and more recently, AC Milan. The European giants it seems are buying into the hype even though Neymar has yet to produce against relatively low quality sides in the Campeonato Paulista.
Much has been made of the similarities between Neymar and Manchester City’s Robinho: how they both came up from Futsal, their phenomenal talent, and their incredible dribbling abilities.
However, many have forgotten how relatively slow Robinho’s rise to fame was and how he lived in the shadows of former teammate, Diego (now at Werder Bremen), for a long time. It’s also true to say that at the beginning of Robinho’s career there wasn’t anywhere near the same level of transfer speculation or the hype. That is until he performed that dribble in front of Corinthian’s Rogério in the finals of the Brasileiro in 2002.
Neymar is yet to have that kind of magical moment that will make him stand out. But that’s hardly surprising as he’s only played a handful of games and it wouldn’t be fair to judge him on that.
Occasionally though, some Brazilian teenage sensations do make an immediate impact. Alexandre Pato was one such player and in his case, the hype was justified.
Others, such as Corinthians’ Lulinha, arrived with so much promise only to fall quickly from grace and out of the first team.
Lulinha, like so many before him, fell victim to over expectations and unwarranted attention and went from being a potentially half decent player to a teenager footballer whose confidence had been totally stripped away. In 2007, Corinthians were struggling in the league and Lulinha was hailed as the team’s saviour. As the season progressed and Corinthians situation worsened, Lulinha was being booed by the same fickle fans.
If Santos fail to make the playoffs of the Campeonato Paulista and if they get off to a bad start in the Brasileiro, a similar fate could in store for Neymar. That is of course, if he hasn’t already been snapped up by one of Europe’s giants.
Watch FootBrazil’s video feature on Neymar here
See Brazil’s new stars in the making here in Brazil: the talent factory 2010
Related post: Lulinha loaned to Estoril
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Entry filed under: Neymar. Tags: Alexandre Pato, Brazilian football, Lulinha, Neymar and AC Milan, Neymar and Chelsea, Neymar and Liverpool, Neymar and Mancheste United, Neymar and Santos, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Pelé and Neymar, Robinho, Robinho and Neymar, Santos.