The Brazilian’s best years are past him and the Ballon d’Or dream remains unrealized
The larger opinion while watching Neymar Jr. in his prime at Barcelona was that he was destined to break the Ballon d’Or supremacy of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The player then moved to Paris Saint-Germain as the costliest ever signing in football history (€222 million) and was part of a team that revolved around him.
His exit from the Catalan club was expected to escalate his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or in the future, but things haven’t quite gone as per the plan. Former Liverpool player Fabio Aurelio believes that despite having a scintillating career, Neymar has not reached the heights that were truly expected of him.
While speaking to GOAL, Aurelio said:
“I always say that I would be very disappointed if I was him. The ambitions he has, and for the quality and talent he has, the fact that he has never won a Ballon d’Or feels wrong. He has all the conditions to do it, but I don’t know what has happened. Maybe some things are more important to him than the game, I don’t know?”
Undoubtedly, the 30-year old is one of the most technically gifted footballers to have ever played the game. The flamboyance and swagger he brings to the entertaining side of football is thoroughly exciting to watch. Yet, the Brazilian only managed to finish on the Ballon d’Or podium once in 2015, ending up third.
Aurelio thinks that Neymar has been too caught up with problems off the pitch which has affected his concentration. The former Brazil international said:
“You see Ronaldo, Messi, they were there at the top level for 10 or 15 years, and you never heard about problems away from the pitch, but Neymar is always involved in things like this. He needs to stay away from those things, because he is capable of amazing things. Maybe now, the age he is, if you don’t look after yourself, it can come back and haunt you.”
Neymar has shown a decline in terms of his goal contributions in his successive seasons at PSG since joining in 2017. The 30-year old still boasts a healthy strike rate for the French giants, having scored 97 goals and provided 58 assists in 139 appearances across all competitions.
Karim Benzema a hot favorite in the race for Ballon d’Or this year
Many stars across the top leagues in Europe and in the Champions League have delivered great performances and maintained consistency throughout the season. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Salah have all proven their credentials to be considered in the running for the Ballon d’Or 2022.
However, Karim Benzema’s form has been sensational and it could be argued that his performances have been the most influential this season. His consecutive hat-tricks in the UCL knockouts against PSG and Chelsea turned the tide in Real Madrid’s favor. He then scored the all-important goal against the Blues in extra-time to give Los Blancos the advantage in their 5-4 aggregate score in the UCL quarter-finals.
The French striker has scored 38 goals in 38 games this season along with 13 assists. He surely seems like the favorite to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or.