When our dreams collide with the harshness of reality; when we are faced with a challenging decision; when we must choose between being a part of history or creating it.
Currently, Neymar is facing a crucial decision.
A 21st century football brand fueled by endless promise; a nouveau-riche social, commercial and cultural phenomena; a superstar who’s no stranger to the scrutiny of the public eye.
However, on the grand stage of European football’s most prestigious competition, the Champions League, he finds himself stuck in a never-ending cycle of repetition.
Messi and Suarez, both supremely skilled South American players, were crucial in helping the one-time winner, Lionel Messi, in the famous ‘MSN’ trio at Barcelona.
Twice, bad luck has worked against the talented Brazilian’s opportunities to dominate the competition while playing for Paris Saint-Germain in red and blue.
We have reached the year 2020. Will this be the third successful attempt? Is this the moment of truth for Neymar?
There are currently three games left to determine if the ‘Red Pill’ of European enlightenment or the ‘Blue Pill’ of another footnote will be added to the 28-year-old’s growing Wikipedia page.
“This is the year where he has the chance to make up for his mistakes and improve himself… These three matches have the potential to completely alter the situation… I don’t think he will have another chance like this,” stated Brazilian soccer journalist Fernando Kallás in an interview with CNN Sport.
The greatest error in the annals of athletics.
Since establishing themselves in the paved streets of Paris in June 2011, the Qatari investors of PSG have been open about their ultimate objective – dominating the continent.
Domestically it’s been an era defined by unrelenting dominance. Seven top-flight league titles and five French cups, including four trebles in six seasons.
If Europe were a lock, they have been endlessly searching for the locksmith who holds the missing key. Despite seven attempts, they have been unable to solve the intricate code, with each failure becoming increasingly difficult to bear.
Jonathan Johnson, an expert in French football, explains that as each season passes, PSG seems to be moving further and further away due to the weight of history and a specific timeline that was established.
In August 2017, Neymar’s transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a staggering $263 million was supposed to bring forth a savior.
Previously playing a supporting role to Messi and Suarez, now taking center stage with the opportunity to impress and achieve the title of best in the world.
Some people saw it as a significant turning point, but for Kallás it is still considered the most detrimental error in sports history.
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A love-hate relationship
As he reflected on his three-year anniversary since moving, the striker expressed that he gained a lot of knowledge during this time. He experienced both moments of joy and challenges.
His connection with followers in the romantic city has fluctuated through all of the possible relationship statuses on Facebook, from ‘Married’ to ‘Separated’ to ‘It’s complicated.’
The nostalgia of a past romance in Catalonia lingers in the background.
An extended, yet ultimately fruitless, attempt at serenading last summer to win over the Brazilian and bring him back to Camp Nou led to heightened tensions in Paris.
The conflicting emotions surrounding the controversial individual were most evident during the superstar’s initial game of the 2019-20 season in the league.
For a full 90 minutes, they were relentlessly jeered until they pulled off a spectacular bicycle kick in the last moments of the match, leaving half of their critics in awe and the other half furious.
Kallás depicts a situation where a jury in Brazil is divided along generational lines – the younger members who admire his appearance, smile, and tattoos, versus the older members who have genuine concerns about him.
The tension of the Cold War in Paris has eased and it is now recognized that returning to the future is not a current possibility.
Johnson states that the individual has displayed dedication to the project both on and off the field. They must fully embrace the challenge of being a member of PSG and strive to achieve success, particularly in the Champions League, while in Paris.
Although there may be a fresh start on the field, uncertainties persist outside of it.
Is the boy going to grow into a man?
Neymar’s personal affairs have, at moments, mirrored a captivating soap opera, complete with drama and backed by a group of associates.
Last year he was cleared of wrongdoing after a Brazilian model accused the former Brazil captain of rape and assault.
He was unable to participate in a league game this year due to an injury, which occurred just two days after he threw a extravagant birthday celebration at a nightclub in Paris.
The supporters who want him to succeed are losing hope: Will the young boy ever grow into a man?
“In Brazil, there is a saying that describes Neymar as an unfulfilled potential. He is often referred to as “Menino Neymar” (Baby Neymar), but he is not a child. He needs to face reality and mature,” states Kallás, who has closely observed Neymar’s successes and struggles both on and off the field.
“When he’s playing, he always performs… I have never received any complaints from a coach or teammate about his behavior during training or in the locker room.”
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Despite his impressive record of goals, assists, and trophies, the talented player has been unlucky due to circumstances beyond his control. He has not had the chance to showcase his skills in the most important stage of European football’s top club competition.
The shortened seasons of 2018 and 2019 were marked by injuries and also saw PSG’s elimination from the round of 16 stage by Real Madrid and Manchester United, respectively.
Johnson states that the remaining period of this campaign is crucial and it will be closely observed.
“It’s a do-or-die situation.”
The finale of this year’s tournament has been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which may have worked in PSG’s favor.
The quarterfinals onward will no longer involve two-legged knockout matches, but instead single-leg shootouts will take place in the bubble of Lisbon.
Neymar has the opportunity to shine on the field since the absence of star players Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé.
The quarterfinals will bring a surprise package from Atalanta, followed by a potential match against the experienced Atlético Madrid in the semifinals. And after that, anything is possible in a final where the winner takes all.
With the impending expiration of the Brazilian’s contract in 2022 and the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, which is expected to be his final appearance for Brazil, the pressure is on to perform well.
“We have repeatedly claimed, ‘This will be the year. No, this will be the year. No, this will be the year.’ He is currently 28 years old, which is typically considered the prime of one’s career, yet he has not reached that level. This is his final opportunity.”
The soap opera has experienced unexpected changes in the storyline, moments of chaos, and flashes of brilliance. It is now up to the main character to write the grand finale.