Brazilian football sensation Neymar has revealed his unease at being considered a saviour for the national team, and insists he alone will not guarantee Brazil’s success at the 2014 World Cup.
The 20-year-old Santos striker is already considered the face of Brazil’s World Cup campaign. His face appears on magazine covers and TV commercials throughout the country and his every move — from his new haircut to the latest music download on his ipod — is considered newsworthy to Brazil’s media.
“I know that people copy my hairstyle, my ways and everything else,” Neymar said Wednesday. “But I don’t feel like a pop star. I am happy for the affection people show towards me because I was a fan and still am. I know how it is to have an idol.”
With 53 goals from 46 matches for club and country in 2012, Neymar has also been making major headlines for his deeds on the pitch.
But he is adamant that he does not carry Brazil’s hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil in less than two years’ time.
“Everybody has his role to play,” Neymar said. “If my teammates don’t pass the ball to me or if they don’t make a run, maybe I won’t be able to get the ball and dribble. It’s a team sport.
“The responsibility always has to be shared and everybody is important. One player alone will not achieve anything. I’m going to be one more Brazilian fighting and striving to win the World Cup.”
Not the right moment
European clubs are falling over themselves to get their hands on Neymar, but the 20-year-old said he was still not ready to leave his homeland.
“I’m happy here in Brazil, I’m happy at Santos. I have a dream of playing in Europe, but it’s still not the right moment,” the Santos forward said.
The timing of a move to Europe can be critical for Brazilian players.
Many leave too soon, struggle to adapt abroad, are pushed into reserve teams and then see their careers go downhill as they are shunted around clubs on loan.
The biggest worry for Neymar, on the other hand, is that he could stay too long in Brazil where defences are generous in the amounts of space they offer and referees award free kicks for the slightest of brushes.
Neymar struggled in arguably the two biggest games of his career, last year’s Club World Cup final where Santos lost 4-0 to Barcelona and the Olympic Games final in August where Brazil was beaten 2-1 by Mexico.
He also had an unhappy experience at last year’s Copa America where Brazil was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Paraguay.
“We were very upset about the Copa America,” he said. “A lot of people were upset about the Olympic Games, but none more so than us. I am very proud to have taken part in the Olympics and won a medal.”
Financially, there is little need for him to go abroad.
Although he could earn higher wages in Europe, in Brazil he has 11 sponsorship contracts and a Neymar shop selling licensed products ranging from mouse pads to cushions and toys.
Neymar has made a big effort to calm his temper after being involved in an episode which resulted in Dorival Junior being fired as Santos coach two years ago.
Neymar, then 18, enraged the coach by questioning why he was not chosen to take a penalty. He was banned for the next match but when Dorival tried to extend the suspension, the Santos board fired the coach.
Often accused of being too individualistic and going to ground too easily, Neymar said he was a team player.
After two years of experimenting, often with unconvincing results, Neymar believes Brazil is managing to move away from the physical, counter-attacking game it played at the 2010 World Cup and find its own style.
“The national team is on a very good upwards curve,” he said. “We are creating our identity and the team is getting more confident and tighter knit. In a short time, it will suit us, our Brazilian way of doing things and things will happen.”