So much for Neymar being heir to the throne — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may have abdicated in Russia but the Brazilian showed no signs of being mature enough to take their place.
The 26-year-old stayed in the competition for one round longer than Messi and Ronaldo but, just like the Argentinian and the Portuguese, he will be watching the semi-finals on TV after Friday’s 2-1 defeat to Belgium in the quarter-finals.
The most expensive player in history was always making headlines but it was for Internet-meme provoking dives and exaggerations to tackles more than for his football. He took two hairdressers to Russia and style commentators recorded five different haircuts but there were just two goals and one assist to his name by the time his tournament ended.
It was perhaps a measure of how he had underperformed that when Spanish sports paper Diario AS ran an online poll to see who Real Madrid supporters wanted the club to sign, 89 % of over 180,000 responses were for Kylian Mbappe over the Brazilian.
Brazil legends have not held back in criticising his failure to ignite the tournament for the five-time winners.
Former Brazilian international Tostao, who won the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 told daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo: “Neymar had various opportunities to shine but he kept on making the wrong choices.”
Neymar scored a late goal against Costa Rica when the group game was already over as a contest and also netted against Mexico in the last 16. But he was found wanting against Belgium.
“Brazil lacked a De Bruyne,” added Tostao after the quarter-final. Some pundits have put Neymar’s disappointing World Cup down to him having been injured in the second half of the season. Others see a more long-term decline since he left Barcelona a year ago.
Former Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari was asked if Neymar was at Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi’s level yet by Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Friday.
“At Barcelona he evolved a lot and he almost reached their level,” he replied. “But it is not something that happens from one day to the next. He is on the right road but he still needs time.
Perhaps in one year or two he will be at their level.” Perhaps the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar will be his tournament. “Neymar is a brilliant player and he will definitely win a World Cup”, said his team-mate Miranda in Kazan on Friday.
But he will be 30 by the time his next chance comes. Pele had won two World Cups before he was 22-years-old. Ronaldo was 26 in 2002 when he had his finest hour with the national team.
“In Brazil we know who Neymar is and who Pele is and who Ronaldo is,” added Scolari. “There will only ever be one Pele.” Russia was Neymar’s big chance to be mentioned in the same breath. But he was unable to take it.

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