Neymar's impressive splash has d-word in its wake

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Neymar is the man of the moment in La Liga, alongside Atletico Madrid forward and fellow Brazilian Diego Costa. However, while the latter's reputation is growing by the game, the Barca star is attracting a mixed bag of opinions from people within football and the Spanish press.

His two goals and five assists in the league so far is without doubt a good return from a new signing. But what is more impressive is his style of play and the options he is giving Barcelona -- a great example being his 90 minutes in the 4-1 win over Valladolid on Saturday evening.

-Neymar refutes diving accusations
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For some, question marks exist over his honesty, but as local sports paper El Mundo Deportivo pointed out Monday, Neymar is the most fouled player in La Liga, being on the receiving end of 32 this season.

That is a significant figure that can only be explained by the player’s willingness to take on defenders -- Neymar is old-fashioned in that way, his exciting style of play harks back to another era when players pushed the ball past opposing players at every opportunity in a bid to gain the advantage.

On Saturday, referee Jesus Gil called five fouls committed against Neymar and booked Fausto Rossi in the process, but perhaps more significant were the three potential penalties he denied the Brazilian.

Unfortunately, it means that the big debate his play is generating is whether he is a 'piscinero' -- a diver, cheat or play-actor. A few who have been on the receiving side of his play have already claimed he is, while sources in Brazil claim he has always had a reputation as being a bit too quick to go the ground.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was the first to raise doubts. "I don't think Neymar does himself any favours by the way he behaves at times," Lennon said after the player was obviously kicked off the ball after a push by Celtic captain Scott Brown in the Champions League last Tuesday.

"The sending-off is uncalled for and unnecessary. It's very soft. I have looked at it; if there was any contact it was minimal," Lennon continued, obviously deciding Neymar was an easier target for him than his captain.

On Saturday, Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez also voiced his concern over Neymar's role in those penalty decisions.

"Neymar has a defect, but I am not going to say what that is, everyone knows what it is", barely hiding his belief that the Brazilian had fallen too easily in the box.

Neymar was quick to cheekily reply, "I don’t know what he is referring to but I hope it is something good, if it is I will listen to him attentively".

If you watch the incidents again, when Neymar is felled twice within a minute in the first half in the penalty area, before a similar fall in the second half, it is impossible to say there is no contact on all three occasions.

Whether all three were penalties is also difficult to judge, but if one or possibly two had been called, Valladolid would have had little to complain about.

Even Jose Mourinho had his say on Sunday, making mention of both Neymar’s and Mario Balotelli's incidents in the Champions League. But whether his opinion on anything Barca can be taken seriously is open to debate.

At Celtic Park, Neymar could have been accused of overplaying the incident in which Brown gave him a little kick off the ball, but the fact that it was an aggression by the Scottish player cannot be disputed and Brown gave the referee no option but to produce a red.

Against Valladolid on Saturday, Neymar was everywhere. Moved by Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino into a more central role, he was involved in all Barca´s best attacking play and, as against Celtic, he showed he is the most fouled player around by taking on every defender in sight.
It is refreshing to see and it is appears obvious to all that Barca have recruited a serious attacking resource to take some of the burden from Lionel Messi.

With a punishing schedule to come it is, with some hindsight, clear that Martino's management of Neymar since the day he came to the club has been impeccable.

His introduction is in sharp contrast to Gareth Bale’s start at Real Madrid. While both players were subject to long-running transfer sagas, Neymar arrived in time for preseason training and was then eased into league games slowly.

Martino slowly introduced the Brazilian into the side from the bench, giving him the left flank to patrol, and now with a central role and some encouraging performances to his name it can be viewed as a very positive start to his time at the club.

Neymar flew on Monday to Asia, where he now has two friendlies to play with Brazil against South Korea on Saturday before moving to Beijing for a game against Zambia next Tuesday.

He told Globo TV after a 12-hour flight, "The trip was tiring but it is worth it to defend the Brazil shirt ".

Meanwhile, back in Spain. some observers believe that the headlines about Neymar's diving are being created by the Madrid press -- a campaign if you like -- ahead of the first ‘Clasico’ now less than three weeks away. Every little bit counts when it come to those encounters and from what Madrid has seen so far, Neymar is a player to fear.


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