Soccer-Neymar losing out from stay-at-home decision
LONDON Feb 7 (Reuters) - With 11 lucrative sponsorship contracts to his name, a legion of adoring fans and the beach on his doorstep, it is not hard to blame Neymar for his decision to stay at home in Brazil.
His performance against England, however, again suggested that his career is suffering from his lack of experience of playing against European defences.
Initially, Brazilians praised Neymar for his loyalty and proudly pointed to his presence as a sign of the improving financial situation in their domestic football as he shunned offers from big European clubs.
But now it is increasingly seen as a soft option for a player who tends to get his own way on the pitch as well as off it.
Neymar, who Brazilians are hoping will lead them to a sixth world title in 2014, revels in the space which Brazilian club teams offer opposing forwards and the tendency of referees to give free kicks for even the slightest hint of contact.
He has a huge variety of tricks in his repertoire and appears to take satisfaction in making opponents looked leaden footed.
One recent victim, Botafogo-Ribeirao Preto forward Nunes, was furious after Neymar casually flicked the ball over his head in a recent Paulista championship match.
"One thing I will not admit is lack of respect and Neymar is not showing respect," said Nunes.
Neymar has little time for such complaints, saying that provoking opponents is a legitimate way to help his side win games.
That cheeky, carefree attitude disappears when Neymar comes up against the closer marking of European defences and he often looks decidedly lightweight.
His previous appearance at Wembley stadium also ended in disappointment as Brazil were beaten by Mexico in the Olympic Games final, with Neymar again ineffective.
He produced an even more forgettable performance when Santos were outclassed by Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup in 2011.
"Neymar needs to take his place on the world football stage. We all know he is the best in Brazil," wrote Robson Morelli, a columnist in the Estado de Sao Paulo.
"Playing for Santos against opponents such as Bragantino and Ituano, the 21-year-old lad will never know what it is like to face European players.
"His performances for Brazil have left much to be desired, along with his effort for Santos against Barcelona. That is holding him back."
Neymar's performance in Thursday's 2-1 defeat to England again belied his reputation as the latest in the line of Brazilian greats.
There was the odd dribble and burst of speed but, too often, he was easily brushed off the ball by England defenders and fluffed two excellent first-half chances from point-blank range.
"It was not the performance I hoped for and wanted. It will have to wait until the time," he told Brazilian media. "It's complicated at the start of the season, but I hope to do better in the next game. (Editing by Alison Wildey)
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