The Missed Dreams: World Cup Glory And TҺe BaƖlon D’or – Is The FootbaƖl WorƖd Truly Unjust To Neymar?

Neymar, the greatest Brazilian player of his generation, once held immense promise upon his European arrival, but his journey has now culminated at Al-Hilal. Eight months after his last opportunity to win the World Cup with Seleção, his dreams remain unfulfilled.

While Neymar may appear polarizing off the pitch, he exudes joy with the ball at his feet and has achieved nearly everything possible in the era of his companion and “rival” Messi. Much of it has been sheer delight. As Pep Guardiola put it, “He makes football a pleasure.” Neymar would dribble into a sea of defenders instead of executing a simple pass. His YouTube highlight reels are filled with audacious runs and bold moves, often leading to less favorable outcomes for his team. However, remember that Neymar is the heir of Brazil’s street football prodigies. Without the joy he shares with the ball, they might not have appeared in our world at all.

Neymar has won most things – domestic titles, Champions League, Club World Cup, and even an Olympic gold medal – but he seems destined to conclude his career without the two most coveted achievements for a Brazilian player: the World Cup and the Ballon d’Or. It’s not that Neymar isn’t deserving; it’s just that fate positioned him alongside the giant, the GOAT Messi.

Neymar wept in the changing room before departing Santos for Europe. He cried when PSG lost to Bayern Munich in the 2020 Champions League final. He shed tears on Lionel Messi’s shoulder after losing to Argentina in the 2021 Copa America final. He wept as Croatia staged a comeback against Qatar. Expectations, the relentless screaming chorus, have influenced Neymar’s journey, and the pain of defeat is evident. For Neymar, finding joy with the ball is akin to a child finding happiness with their favorite toy.

A decade in Europe mainly unfolded under Messi’s shadow. The only player on the planet better than Neymar in every aspect. Neymar could shine like the greatest, if not for Messi’s radiant presence beside him. Alongside Messi and Suárez, they forged one of the greatest teams of all time, the 2014-2015 Barcelona. No one has played with as much joy and victory as they did.

Parting Ways with Neymar, and a Career Under the Shadow of Lionel Messi – Image 1
Just like his club career, Neymar’s international legacy is framed by Messi. The 2021 Copa America final between Argentina and Brazil was seen as a battle between two talismans of their respective nations. Both had a chance to cast off the weight carried for so long. Neither excelled on that night at Maracanã, but Messi was the one celebrating, while Neymar needed consoling.

Qatar 2022 is Neymar’s best shot at the World Cup. He watched from the stands during the 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014. He was helpless as Belgium triumphed in the 2018 quarter-finals in Russia. Brazil arrived in Qatar as major contenders, an immense pressure that weighed on Neymar. When he scored a mesmerizing goal against Croatia in the quarter-finals, everyone thought it was finally time for Neymar to fulfill his predecessor’s wishes. However, Croatia triumphed in the penalty shootout, also beating Neymar’s team, Brazil, in the semifinals. Neymar’s efforts quickly faded behind Messi’s praises.

World Cup 2022 marks the last time Neymar saw his passion nurtured, but Brazil’s failure ended it all. The issue of him leaving PSG due to fans’ resentment in France is just one aspect. In reality, even if Neymar stayed, he would be merely a shadow of himself. Messi’s departure doesn’t mean Neymar will be jubilant. On the contrary, it only makes Europe a less joyful place for Neymar.

Neymar’s move to Saudi Arabia seems driven primarily by financial incentives. A lucrative salary, coupled with personal desires for luxury cars, a 25-bedroom mansion, an extraordinary-sized pool, and a well-stocked fridge of açaí juice – Neymar’s favorite drink. He might return to Europe soon, being only 31 and with the 2026 World Cup not too far away. But the crucial question remains: will there be anyone there to truly bring him happiness?

Neymar’s most famous goal remains the one he scored at 19 for Santos, a result of a dribble that displayed balance and control like magic. Never, not since moving to Europe, has Neymar recaptured the flair he exhibited as a young boy with a football.

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