Instead of being the star of the show, Neymar was the joke of the internet’s meme streak after a poor World Cup, but the PSG has the bottle to bounce back
Neymar had a generally disappointing World Cup performance overall, considering his reputation. The PSG finds himself almost alone, against the whole football world, with winning the UEFA Champions League with Paris Saint Germain being the only way which would allow him to redeem self-esteem. But the Brazilian star has got everything to bounce back from this situation.
Neymar JR hit the headlines in Russia 2018, but for the wrong reasons. The Brazilian became a laughing stock in front of millions of football fans, who disliked the diving antics he displayed throughout the course of the tournament. His failure to guide the national team to the title with a very upsetting elimination against Belgium in the quarter-finals, where he offered little to nothing, certainly did not help his case in making people forget all the memes about him rolling around the pitch.
The moment Neymar decided to leave Barcelona and sign for PSG, it was clear that he would be judged based on his displays in the Champions League and the World Cup. An injury in mid-season meant that he would miss the decisive second leg against Real Madrid, as well as the rest of the PSG’s league and cup campaigns, so Russia 2018 was naturally the only remaining hope for him to save his season. Therefor, everyone is being extremely critical towards the Brazilian, as an accumulation of everything he has gone through over the past 12 months.
Brazil had a good chance to win the tournament in Russia, and in a very tight game against Belgium in the quarters, the fans expected Neymar to be the one to make the difference and send the team to the next round. But it was in vein, as the 26-year old looked clueless for the majority of the game, and despite setting up his teammates on a few occasions, he failed to influence the scoreline in any way.
In fairness, Neymar was quite obviously not at full fitness for the tournament, following a three-month injury. But his character looked very controversial to say the least, which is perhaps why he lost people’s sympathy. It’s as if they were happy to see him under-perform because they were eager to witness the failure of a footballer they dislike – for whatever reason that is.
Neymar is still young, but no longer a rising talent. At 26, he is supposed to be at the peak of his professional career. Guiding PSG to their first European title would be the real challenge, but an alternative way back to normal stardom, would be to join Real Madrid and succeed Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo. It is no secret that Florentino Pérez is very keen on the player, ever since he still plied his trade at Santos, but lost the race to arch-rivals Barcelona. Since then, Madrid have captured the two hottest talents in Brazil – Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes, as if they were trying to make up for the failure to get the main target.
Whether you like him or hate him, Neymar remains one of the very best players in the world and has all the quality to bounce back. It won’t be too long before everyone starts praising his heroics again, as has always been the case.