Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has been a prodigious talent since he first signed for Santos at the age of 13. History dictates that success in Brazil inevitably leads to a big-money transfer to Europe, and offers for the spiky-haired 20-year-old have been flooding into his Sao Paolo club for several years.
Well-connected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, meanwhile, has taken to Twitter to claim that a deal with Barcelona has already been agreed.
The Catalan club's latest accounts, Balague claims, include a vaguely labelled payment of €40 million set aside for the player, who he expects to arrive in Spain after the 2014 World Cup.
This week, Neymar has poured gasoline all over the Barcelona transfer rumour flames by expressing his "dream" (Marca via Goal.com) to play alongside Lionel Messi. It's worth mentioning that Santos' website denied any deal was in place with Barcelona (per Goal.com).
Although the Santos sensation has been whetting European appetites with sublime performances and stupendous goals in South America for a long time, a move to Europe does not appear to be on the cards soon.
Despite the promise of astronomical remuneration, Neymar told Reuters this week that his predestined move to Europe must wait: "I'm happy here in Brazil, I'm happy at Santos. I have a dream of playing in Europe, but it's still not the right moment."
Why does Neymar feel the need to delay his ineluctable move? With three Campeonato Paulistas, a Copa Libertadores and a Copa do Brasil acquired over the past few seasons, what else is left to achieve in South America? Wouldn't playing abroad give him experience that could prove beneficial to Brazil's World Cup campaign? Isn't there a danger of staying too long in a league that does not challenge him to his full potential?
Some have suggested he is too young and unworldly to move to Europe. However, Neymar is just a few months shy of 21, the age at which Ronaldinho and Kaka both made the continental switch. Ronaldo was just 17 when he moved to PSV Eindhoven in 1994. His Brazilian teammate Oscar was just 20 when he arrived at Chelsea, and he has adapted to the English game extremely well.
Others suggest he may not cope with the pressures of the European game. Is a man with 25 international caps, 11 separate sponsorship deals and the weight of his nation's expectations on his shoulders not used to pressure?
The fear, it seems, is that he will burn out, or struggle to acclimatise to a higher standard of play.
In the two biggest games of his career––Brazil's Olympic final loss to Mexico and Santos' Club World Cup final loss to Barcelona––he was disappointing.
Former Brazil national team coach Dunga has expressed his concerns (via Goal.com) surrounding any potential move, saying he must gain more experience in his homeland before venturing abroad, for the sake of his career and his World Cup campaign.
Pele has also weighed in (Fox Sports via Goal.com), asserting that the 20-year-old would not cope with the physicality of the Premier League.
Unless the financial temptations prove too strong to resist, it would appear Neymar's European odyssey is a few years away. We may never know if the benefit of staying put outweighs the cost of missed opportunities in Europe, but as it stands, European football is almost certainly worse off without him.
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