[OP-ED]: Neymar, the most expensive player in the history of soccer, is already focusing in Russia 2018
It is true no other country has won the World Cup more times than Brazil (5), but it is also true the South American powerhouse has not conquered the world of soccer since 2002.
In fact, the last three Brazilian World Cup appearances finished in disaster. In the 2006 tournament, France eliminated Brazil in the quarterfinals (1-0). Four years later, The Netherlands prevented them from reaching the semifinals (2-1). In 2014, with the World Cup being held on their own soil, Brazil reached the final four, but only to be humiliated by Germany in the semifinal contest (7-1) and to lose the consolation game with The Netherlands (3-0). The 10 goals surrendered in those two outings became the biggest shame that torcida verde-amarela has suffered in the history of soccer.
Anyway and despite that horrible week will never be forgotten, Brazilian fans are looking at the future again with excitement. The main reason for it is the 25-year old rising star Neymar da Silva Santos Junior: Neymar. The elusive striker was the only player that did not take the blame for the 2014 World Cup failure as he left the quarterfinal game against Colombia injured. Last summer, Neymar guided Brazil to strike gold for the first time in Olympic male soccer, winning the tournament held in Rio de Janeiro. Currently the forward developed at Santos, the same club that saw Pele play, has the green-and-yellow team leading the South American qualifiers for Russia’s 2018 World Cup. After 14 games, Brazil has 33 points with a huge nine-point lead over second-place Colombia. Neymar heads the squad with 10 goals. Since Ronaldo Nazário (2002 World Cup’s top scorer) a player had not created the excitement Neymar is generating in a soccer-oriented country like Brazil.
Neymar is clearly focused in becoming the planet’s top soccer star. For this reason, he took the main role in the summer’s most surprising news, buying the escape clause of his contract with F.C. Barcelona, 222 million euros (262 million U.S. dollars), becoming the most expensive player in the history of soccer, to go to the capital of France to become the leader of Paris Saint-Germain. Barça never imagined a club would pay so much money to take away one of its stars. It is clear Neymar’s new salary of 30 million euros (35 million U.S. dollars) was a big reason for leaving Barcelona, but probably the Spanish club could have reached an amount of this type in a negotiation that never took place.
So the main reason for Neymar’s departure was not a financial one. The Brazilian star left to become the icon of a project, the number one player in a team that has been amongst Europe’s elite in the last years and that now has a true chance to win it all. In Barcelona, the shadow of Leo Messi was too big for Neymar during four years in which the Brazilian won every tournament a club can strive for, but was never the focal point of the success. Now in Paris, the great striker is accountable for achieving greatness, dreaming with a Golden Ball that has been dominated by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the past nine years, but also focusing in reaching the 2018 Russia World Cup as the number one star in planet football to lead Brazil back to the summit of a sport that has belonged to other countries in the last decade.