By Ben Hayward
The stage was set for Neymar. Having led his Santos side to Copa Libertadores glory earlier this summer, the young Brazilian was expected to star for the selecao in the Copa America. But things didn't quite work out as planned and, save a two-goal salvo against Ecuador, there was little evidence to suggest the 19-year-old forward is ready to step up at a top European side such as Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Earlier this week, Goal.com's Robin Bairner argued that the forward's flop in the continental competition, which culminated in a lacklustre showing as Brazil lost out to Paraguay on penalties in the quarter-finals, proved the player is unprepared for La Liga's top two teams.
So we put it to you, the readers, as we asked: is Neymar ready for Real Madrid or Barcelona? Poll results, which can be seen below this piece, showed that just over 60 per cent of you believe the player is still not in a condition to make the step up. And plenty of you agreed in the Goal.com comments sections, on Facebook and on Twitter.
Many of you believe the Brazilian should continue his development at Santos. David, in Nigeria, said: "Neymar has to stay back at Santos for a better future ahead of him. He's young and doesn't need to rush life. It will be better if he stays at Santos at least one more year in order to combine his talent with maturity."
Jez, in Australia, agreed: "I think he should stay at Santos until he's 20 to 23 and then move to Europe. So that way he is more experienced and then we would be able to see if he has truly got potential to be one of the best."
Others, such as Paul, in UK, concur with that assessment, saying the youngster still has much to improve on before joining one of Europe's elite sides. "I have to go on his performances so far in front of goal and say no, he isn't ready. He has impressed me with his dribbling skills but has a long way to go in terms of positioning, vision, and more than anything, finishing," he said. Rifaan agreed, saying: "Of course he is not ready; he has a lot to learn."
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Campeanato Paulista (2010, 2011),
Copa Libertadores (2011)
Sibusiso S'bu Rantsoabe agrees that the youngster's €45 million valuation is steep and feels the Santos forward was a petulant presence for his national team in the Copa America.
"He is definitely not a finished product. He is exciting and has potential but is not worth €40-50m. Why pay so much money for someone who still needs to learn? At times he behaves like a school boy, losing the ball cheaply."
Moe, in Canada, also believes the Brazilian has some growing up to do: "In my opinion he's just another hyped-up young brat. He always wants to be the centre of attention and is always whining when he doesn't get the ball. He dives way too much and needs at least two or three more years before he is mature enough to play for a 'big club'."
Amazon talent | But Neymar endured a frustrating Copa campaign
Toni, in Finland, says Neymar can make the step up, however, and believes the forward can push on in his development at one of Spain's biggest clubs: "I think he's ready to play but more importantly it would be beneficial to get him familiar with their players and playing style. Neymar would learn more and faster at Barca or Real because he would have to earn his place in the starting XI."Chidi Salim Yeah is a fan and thinks the 19-year-old can go on to become the greatest footballer on the planet, providing he is at the right club: "He is good player. He needs to play in a great team, not in Brazil. And i believe he will become the world's best player."
Most football fans agree that the world's best player is currently Lionel Messi. And Iuri, in Brazil, says that while Neymar didn't shine in the Copa America, he points out that the Barcelona star hardly had things all his own way, either: "Well, Neymar struggled in Copa America. That is true. But, at least he scored two goals. And Messi, the current best player inthe world, did what? No goals, and thats not a surprise. He has ALWAYS BEEN A FLOP FOR ARGENTINA. Of course, I agree Neymar has a LOT to do to become Messi-like. But, still, people are being ignorant. He's only 19."
For his part, Momo, madridista, remembered that Barca right-back Dani Alves also endured a miserable time in Argentina: "Messi flopped as well; does that mean he should leave Barca? Should Alves move to Santos? Neymar played better than everyone else on the national team."
Brian Nkosi believes the comparison is ill-advised, though: "Neymar cant match Messi."