The Neymar Enigma

Neymar is currently out of action for weeks. He sustained the ankle ligament injury while playing against Saint-Etienne on November 28. Plenty of starts and stops has been Neymar’s narrative during his reign in PSG, mostly due to injuries. Today we will closely look at his tenure as the PSG poster boy.

Heir to the Throne

Neymar when in Barcelona was considered to be the true successor of Messi and Cristiano in World Football, and also one of the best players in the world. He left FCB for PSG to escape the shadow of Messi and be the main man; carve his path and legacy. However, his move has left much to be desired. While Cristiano and Messi have consistently put-up world-class performances in the last few years, Neymar struggles to find himself on the pitch nearly half the time.

Neymar recently in an interview said that the upcoming World Cup 2022 could be his last. He said so because he doubts if he will be able to mentally endure more soccer. So, a huge cloud looms over his legacy and greatness, because it takes a lot of sacrifices, mental strength, and resilience to be one of the greatest ever, and it feels like Neymar isn’t keen to pay the price for that.

Neymar Jr poses with PSG shirt Image source: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Neymar in PSG

Since joining PSG on August 3, 2017, Neymar has played just 130 matches in all competitions for the Parisians. He has 90 goals and 71 assists for the Red-and-Blues during that time. To put that into perspective, he played 187 matches in all competitions for Barcelona in the four-season stint, with 105 goals and 90 assists. Messi during that time has played 211 matches for Barcelona and PSG, scoring 171 goals and providing 115 assists. Similarly, Cristiano has made 197 appearances for Real Madrid, Juventus, and Manchester United since the 2017/18 season, scoring 158 goals and creating 44 for his teammates.

Neymar however has played a similar number of matches as Messi and Cristiano for Argentina and Portugal respectively, with impressive output. Since joining PSG, Neymar has played 39 matches for Brazil, with 18 goals and 22 assists. Similarly, Messi for Argentina played 40 matches and had 22 goals, 10 assists, whereas Cristiano had 40 goals, 5 assists in 41 matches for Portugal.

Neymar writhing in pain due to ankle injury. Image source: Getty Images


Neymar has been very unfortunate with injuries as well. While playing against Marseille on 25 February 2018, Neymar fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. His debut season came to an unexpected halt then. In late January 2019, he suffered from another foot injury that sidelined him in the Champions League round of 16 encounter against Manchester United. United eliminated PSG from RO16 then. He had a hamstring injury in October while on international duty with Brazil which derailed his campaign till late November. On December 13, 2020, he was out of action for three weeks with a sprain.

The part of him being regularly injured is that he invites so much challenge from the opposition since he holds the ball and dribbles very well. He is so good at it that it annoys the opponents and they unnecessarily tackle him sometimes. While nobody wants to be deliberately injured, remaining fit and overcoming injuries as quickly as possible is also an integral part of an athlete’s pursuit of greatness. That is why the greatness of Messi and Cristiano is so remarkable because of their longevity and the level of football they have maintained over a decade and a half.

Neymar keeping his opponent on toes like he usually does. Image source: PSG


Neymar, when fit and healthy on the pitch, is one of the best players in the world. Legendary Brazilian Player Cafu once said Neymar is technically better than Messi and Ronaldo. While that is a subject of subjectivity, the Legend as big as Cafu giving such a statement testifies the talent and potential has in possession. The talent and ability of Neymar are undeniable. However, he has plenty more to achieve to do justice to that. Neymar is currently on the borderline of greatness, and whether he will unlock his full potential and reach the next level is the enigma at hand. Hopefully, he does, which will be a great spectacle for all the football fans to witness because a Neymar in full flight with football is a sight to behold.