To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: when a man is tired of Neymar, he is tired of football.
You can dismiss him if you want, citing dives, haircuts, general theatrics before inevitably using the phrase ‘farmers league‘.
But to cast him aside is to deny perhaps the greatest on-pitch entertainer in the sport today.
Having scored in seven consecutive Ligue 1 fixtures, the 27-year-old’s scoring streak came to an end as he failed to get in on the act as PSG beat Montpellier 5-0 on Saturday.
However, he was the centre of attention as the referee inexplicably warned him about showboating.
Neymar performed a rainbow kick in a tight situation to win a throw-in for his side and was spoken to by Jerome Brisard about the importance of sportsmanship.
PSG’s No10 was then booked for complaining as he appeared to say: “I am playing football.”
Firstly, the referee has no right to tell a player how they should play the game when they are abiding by the laws.
Secondly, the incident occurred midway through the first half when PSG were only 1-0 up — Neymar was not showboating, he was genuinely playing football his way.
Thirdly, why is a referee trying to suppress the game’s entertainment value by disapproving of technical skill?
Anyone who has followed Neymar’s career will know he often uses moves you remember from FIFA Street in general play.
Most the time he isn’t trying to humiliate his opponents, such skills just come naturally to him.
Sometimes, he does deliberately target an opponent, usually as a response to a blatant foul.
Here he gaining swift revenge on a helpless Montpellier henchman…
The above act was not one of needless pettiness.
He combined his personal mini-vendetta with a dribble that launched a threatening attack for the benefit of his team.
More than that, he entertained those watching.
And that’s why he’s a player we should cherish, because football is, above all, an entertainment business.
Yes, most would prefer the one of the world’s best players to play in the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga or Serie A.
There is no doubt Neymar is too good for Ligue 1 — he has scored 47 goals in 51 league games since moving to Paris, despite significant injury setbacks.
But that doesn’t mean we should suck all the joy out of his performances, because there is so much enjoy.
Ronaldinho is one of the most universally loved footballers of all time because of his unfiltered samba style.
Neymar shares the same outlook on the beautiful game as his compatriot but the gulf between the pair’s reputations is enormous.
The latter has failed to endear himself in the same way because of several high-profile incidents in which he would probably admit he acted immaturely.
Many fans seem to be annoyed by Neymar the human and, as a result, disregard Neymar the footballer.
While this is understandable, to do so is a tragedy for any fans who truly appreciate the sport at its purest, joyous best.
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