Neymar’s career has been a rollercoaster with high expectations often followed by disappointment and frustration. He is the most expensive player in football history, but he may struggle to realize his true potential, whether at his clubs or the national team.
Neymar is often criticized for being immature and self-centered and generating a lot of headlines both on and off the pitch. It seems that Neymar has stuck out his neck this season and paid more attention to his physical and mental preparation for the World Cup.
He decided to end his holiday a week early to return to training with Paris St Germain at the end of the season and so far has had an outstanding campaign, being one of the leading players for goals and assists combined in the five major European leagues.
You could argue that his relationship with the World Cup over the past 12 years reflects his entire career – a tale of hope, disappointment, controversy, pain and under-performance.
For the 2010 tournament in South Africa, he was dropped from the final roster by coach Dunga, who did not believe the flamboyant then 18-year-old attacker who just broke through with Santos was ready for the big stage.
Four years later, he was an international superstar along with Lionel Messi in Barcelona and spearheading the World Cup host nation.
Yet he suffered a fractured vertebra in Brazil’s quarter-final victory over Colombia and watched from his hospital bed as his teammates thrash a humiliating 7-1 semi-final on home soil at the hands of Germany.
At Russia 2018, injuries again hampered his dream of winning a World Cup. In early 2018, Neymar suffered a sprained right ankle that affected the fifth metatarsal in his foot.
He was never 100% during the tournament, playing through the pain and far from his peak when Brazil were knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals.
A common denominator in both of Neymar’s appearances at the World Cup was his role as the only difference-maker in Brazilian teams that lacked the star power of previous generations.
Throughout his career, Neymar has had to carry the burden of being the Brazilian superstar of his generation.
But recently, others in European football have become famous with the emergence of young Brazilian players such as Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, Raphinha, Bruno Guimaraes and others.
In Qatar, Neymar will get a supporting cast of the quality Brazil has been used to in the past for the first time.
It is the perfect opportunity for him to achieve glory and redemption by helping Brazil win the World Cup for the first time in two decades.