Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Neymar to Real Madrid - but why?

It is rumoured that Santos star Neymar will join Spanish giants Real Madrid next offseason, finally consummating a courtship of two years. The Brazilian, recently tipped by Pele as the next "best player in the world", is thought to have agreed a transfer worth somewhere in the region of 53 million. The deal is likely to slap him firmly amongst the elite of footballing salaries.

Such powerful economic impetus for a move notwithstanding, it's worth asking why Neymar has (allegedly) chosen to sign for Real Madrid. The reasons he'd want to play for los blancos are obvious and plentiful: there are no larger clubs; though questions still remain about their level of debt, it's thought Real have the cash to fulfill Santos' expansive financial requests; they have the ability to glorify Neymar both fiscally and with fan-love; and reasonably expect multiple years of contention for the La Liga and Champions' League titles.

Though good reasons, they should all be dwarfed by one contrary reason: that Neymar will find it exponentially more difficult to realise his immense potential at Real than at many - perhaps any - other large clubs. His star burns bright, but will it continue to do so amongst so many others?

Real's collection of attacking talent is probably the greatest in the world: from Cristiano Ronaldo, through Angel di Maria, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka, Mesut Ozil - the list goes on. Neymar likely replaces Benzema or Higuain, but it's hardly a given. Also, competition for the "alpha dog" role will bring out either the best, or the worst in Ronaldo.

To quote a famous Time Lord, where better to hide a tree than a forest?

The Galactico model favoured by current Real Madrid president Florentino Perez acquires global superstars at exorbitant costs to in theory create an unstoppable sporting juggernaut powered by goals and replica jersey sales. It has been moderately successful, but recently inferior to Barcelona's homeslice talent. Certain galacticos have been successes; others ... less so.

Though football's list of richest clubs still includes Real, Barca, Juventus and the EPL's aristocracy - those now most readily reaching for their hip pockets are upstart clubs fuelled by natural resources like Anzhi Makhachkala, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain. At any of the world's biggest and richest clubs, Neymar would be the feature attraction, allowed to develop and blossom into a player for the ages. Then he could move to "dream club" Real.

Cristiano Ronaldo needed time to develop into "the guy" at Manchester United; Messi only became fully appreciated after Ronaldinho exited the Camp Nou. Everywhere, except perhaps for at the Spanish giants, Neymar would get that time and opportunity.

Where better to shroud a star than amongst others?

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