To the surprise of very few, the Brazilian soccer star Neymar is set to sign a contract to leave his current club Santos and join Barcelona, the Spanish juggernaut. This super club is already home to the world's best player, Leo Messi, and his equally virtuosic compatriots, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. Together, this quandrant of world-class, unselfish players will create an offense that will be a force to be reckoned with. Or will they?
Stylistically, Xavi, Messi, and Iniesta are cut from the same cloth. The three have been signed to Barcelona since their pre-teen years, when they studied at the club's private football academy for exceptional players, La Masia. This exclusive institution teaches the finer points of aggressive, team play, and the foundations of the Tiki-taka, the one-touch passing style. These three former prodigies grew up playing together. They carefully developed a habit of passing and moving with the understanding of a collective mind. They flick the ball back and forth in triangles like a pinball when they really get going.
Neymar, however, was more often than not playing a home-grown, individual game at Santos. "People compare me to Pele, but I think my style is more like Garrincha," the 21-year-old once said of himself, referring to the Brazilian pioneer of tactical dribbling. This self-appraisal is accurate, and in tapes of Garrincha’s play, what stands out is his tendency to let the ball stand still while he faked out defenders with samba-esque barrage of step-overs.
Neymar, too, has wowed fans with his static combination moves.
However, at Barcelona, this type of stake-out is not exactly in keeping with the group mentality.
Neymar will have to adapt to the style that is incumbent at Barcelona, which is perhaps the point of his move. Real Madrid, the wealthy rivals of Barcelona, continuously made more expensive offers at the super talent. Neymar's refusal could best be explained by his desire to learn the team game from the best teachers in Europe, rather than joining the more swashbuckling, swift counter-attack at Madrid. Maybe Neymar simply did not want to compete for the same position on the field as Christiano Ronaldo, or for attention over their silly hair styles.