Ballon D’Or: Neymar a future winner?

Neymar Drawing

“Neymar will win the Ballon d’Or one day because he has all the tools to do so. He’s a top-class player, and he’ll go as far as he wants to. He’s fast, technically gifted and has the skill to take on people one-on-one.”

The above quotes are from none other than Lionel Messi.

And when a record five-time Ballon d’Or winner endorses someone to be a future winner of the prestigious individual honour, it cannot be taken lightly. And as Messi acknowledges Neymar’s candidacy for the award, it ought to be taken even more seriously as the Argentine has seen the Brazilian closely for the last three seasons, since his arrival at the Camp Nou from Santos in the summer of 2013.

Neymar, on his part, has progressed rapidly at Barcelona. His first season in European football yielded 15 goals and as many assists, although the club failed to win any major trophies during the campaign under Tata Martino.

The second season for Neymar was a stupendous success as he notched 39 goals and 11 assists to help the Catalan giants to their second treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. His performances certainly caught everyone’s attention and he went on to be named in the final three of the Copa del Rey voting last January.

He finished behind Messi and Cristinao Ronaldo in the final standings but there definitely was a sense that he could have come second behind the Argentine and above the Portuguese.

The last season was another fruitful one for Neymar as well as Barcelona. The Brazilian scored 31 times, but his playmaking skills came to the fore as he provided an astonishing 27 assists for his team-mates to help the club end the season with the double of the league title and the Copa del Rey.

Neymar was rested for the Copa America Centenario but he will feature in the national team at the Olympics. And if he is able to win a first Olympic gold medal for Brazil, his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or will get a significant boost.

Messi, who learned many tricks of the football trade from Ronaldinho during his early days in Barcelona first team, was recently asked which of two Brazilian forwards he would he pick to play alongside. And the Argentine found it hard to pick a favourite.

“Ohhhh! That’s very difficult! I am happy to have played with both of them. It is a tough thing to happen and I have been fortunate to have played with each of them, so it is very difficult to choose just one.”

When the Argentine captain was asked if Neymar would make La Albiceleste first team, he replied that the Brazilian would be an automatic selection in any team.

“In any team, Neymar would have a place wherever he wanted. A unique player such as him could play wherever he wished.”

Messi also revealed the high esteem in which Neymar holds him.

“He always says he is a fan of mine and that embarrasses me a little, because he tells me to my face that he is a fanatic of mine.”

Can Neymar win the 2016 Ballon d’Or?

Barcelona stalwart Lionel Messi and Real Madrid lynchpin Cristiano Ronaldo have been in such superlative form for the last several years that they have shared the last seven Ballon d’Or awards amongst themselves– four to the Argentine and three to the Portuguese.

For the award ceremony in 2016 due to be held in Switzerland, the duo still remain the favourites to take home the prestigious gong. However, they do have a challenger in Neymar. Especially the way the Brazil international has performed this season has made him a strong contender for the award.

Neymar joined the Catalan giants in the summer of 2013 from Brazilian outfit Santos and after a difficult introduction to life in European football at the Camp Nou, he came to the fore in the 2014/15 campaign. The 2013/14 season was a forgettable one for Barcelona as under the stewardship of Tata Martino, they finished empty handed, failing to win any of the competitions they participated in. Neymar gave flashes of his individual brilliance through the course of the campaign – memorably scoring on his El Clasico debut at the Camp Nou – however, the team failed to win any silverware in his first season in Europe.

He came to the fore in the 2014/15 campaign for the Catalans and went on to notch an incredible haul of 39 goals and 11 assists across all competitions. His heroics helped Luis Enrique’s side win a historic treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. Remarkably, the Brazilian scored in the both legs of the quarter-final of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain, both legs of the last four encounter against Bayern Munich and in the final against Juventus to enhance his reputation of being a player for the big occasions.

His goal in the final of the Champions League against the reigning Italian champions was the last kick of the game played at Berlin and was fittingly scored by the Brazilian, who proved to be a nightmare for the Old Lady defence all through the course of the game.

His phenomenal season enhanced his chances of being a prominent presence at the Ballon d’Or ceremony of 2016.

He has done his chances of spoiling the Messi and Ronaldo duopoly on the trophy a world of good with his displays this season.

The forward has scored 11 from as many games in the league and has also assisted four goals for his team-mates. He has continued from where he left off in the Champions League and has gone on to notch two goals and three assists in the elite European competition. The way he has led the team in the absence of the injured Messi has greatly bolstered his chances of doing well at the Ballon d’Or voting.

He has also been greatly helped by the poor form of Ronaldo this term, as he has failed to have the same kind of impact for Real Madrid that he has managed in the past at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Simply put, Neymar has been the best player of the 2015/16 season and is likely to be a strong contender for the Ballon d’Or award come January.