By Eric Beard
Still only 19 years old, Neymar, alongside his agent and his club, persistently fought transfer talk throughout the summer transfer window, but ultimately he stayed in Brazil. Could he be playing every Sunday in front of hundreds of millions of viewers right now? Sure. Would it be worth it? Categorically, no.
Today, Neymar signed a new contract at Santos, which will theoretically keep him at the club until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro said, “Neymar is staying with Santos until World Cup 2014. The contract is signed.” With Ribeiro’s comments in mind, signs still point to Europe, as a new contract and pay increase is often a strategic move that gives a club more bargaining power for negotiations. (see: Kun Aguero’s new contract with Atletico Madrid months before a move to Man City)
Though the Santiago Bernabeú or the Camp Nou, or [insert name of Superclub’s stadium] may be where Neymar eventually reaches the pinnacle of his career, Brazil’s next star is one of the only modern South American talents to become a household name amongst football fans before moving overseas. Scouts from the biggest clubs in the world are always looking for the next Kaka or Aguero, however, few professionals resists the temptation of millions of euros, the Champions League, and playing with the best in the world. Neymar is one of the few.
In the past year, the Brazilian phenomenon has become a regular for his country, scoring 8 goals in 15 appearances. He has won the biggest tournament in South American football, the Copa Libertadores. And his most recent accolade? A spot on the FIFA Ballon d'Or shortlist alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and company. He stands next to fellow South Americans Dani Alves, Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, Messi, and Luis Suarez; however, he is the only player nominated that does not play in Europe.
Reports have stated that a deal is in place for Neymar to move to Real Madrid over the summer, but before then he may get his first shot to beat Barcelona. Santos, having won the Libertadores, are in the Club World Cup. The opportunities seem endless for Neymar and he is quickly becoming the face of the 2014 World Cup.
In reality, whether Neymar opts to spend some more time in Brazil or go to Europe is not very important. What is important, and equally impressive, is that he is able to actively appreciate how a bit of patience, even inaction, can help his career. Touching on the taoist conception of wu wei, or actionless action, for a moment, Neymar is living in accordance with a way of being in the world that entrusts in patience. The wu wei teaches that the first thing to do in a problematic situation is wait. Though Neymar’s situation is hardly problematic, it is invariably complex. The wu wei preaches that when you wait, you are understanding the course of your surroundings. There’s an appropriate sense of patience and an active grasp of what is problematic or complex. Part of that grasp is understanding the situation as a whole.
Watching Neymar is like watching the final table of the World Series of Poker. The seasoned poker “pros” (for the record, poker is not a sport) all stare at their cards, playing hand after hand while sitting inches away from millions and millions of dollars. The average player, in football and in poker, would lose their composure in an instant with that kind of money in front of them. Neymar, with his ‘não passa nada’ attitude, is just enjoying the situation he’s in.
At today’s press conference Neymar said, “[Being] the best in the world? That’s not my goal. I want to play in all of the biggest competitions. Santos are competing [in them]… I’m very happy here. I always said I was happy to be near my friends, and now my son. There’s no bigger joy than agreeing to stay.”
Neymar, of course, is not the only one making all the right moves. Santos deserve credit for doing everything in their power to keep him satisfied, both on and off the pitch. In his new contract, Santos maneuvered an excellent bit of business by having club sponsor Banco do Brasil agree to pay a large portion of Neymar’s increased wages. The good decision-making does not end with the club. The Brasileirão has been absolutely thriving, both financially and competitively. In addition to the ability to keep stars like Ganso and Neymar, Brazilian clubs now have the financial backing to bring back stars like Ronaldinho.
The level of futebol within Brazil is the highest it has been in years. Neymar’s patience and level of contentment with life, on a personal, communal, and model level will only help push Brazil to new heights, on the domestic and international stage.
Translations courtesy of Jack Lang. Comments below please.