Acceptable levels of violence?

In the wake of the 1-3 Copa victory by FC Barcelona, it seems that only two things happened: a stupefying Messi goal, and a Neymar flick. The reactions are, of course rather different. It’s the latter one that interests me in this post.

Football has long had a black leather-booted code of Things You Don’t Do. When Neymar came to Barça with his collection of tricks and flicks, it was forgotten that Ronaldinho made a name for himself doing such things, because this was different. Why is a good question, but the evidence didn’t take long to manifest itself.

After tormenting Celtic, Neymar found running space with a flicked ball past a defender. Scott Brown resolved the issue by shoving Neymar down, and throwing a kick his way for good measure. It earned a justly deserved red card, but the post-match reaction was more interesting, as too much of football rushed to Brown’s defense.

“Neymar shouldn’t have shown them up.” “He’s a diver. He deserved it.”

When Neymar wound up Atleti, who also reacted with violence, it was again Neymar’s fault.

Gabi had words after the match about Neymar’s behavior, labeling it “irritating,” and the black-booted code said “Yeah!” The assortment of kicks and fouls, an ankle gushing blood from the studs of an Atleti player as a result of one clash, were immaterial. Disrespect was the question, here, and Neymar had it coming. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t try flicks in the kitchen.

In the latest incident, late in the match vs Athletic in the Copa final, he tried a sombrero to escape a tight sideline situation. It failed, and Athletic defenders responded with violence. The black-booted code again.

A great many culers have, of course, said the effect of “Well, he shouldn’t do that in that situation. What does he expect?” And again, the violence is tacitly condoned. A MARCA story quotes Enrique, with interesting bits in bold:

The Barça manager fully understood the Athletic players’ anger after Neymar’s show of unnecessary, fancy football: “In Spain such things are not taken kindly and if I were an Athletic player I would have behaved in much the same way or even worse, but we have to understand that these things are normal in Brazil. We will try to make him understand.”

Now, a lot can be read into that quote, which is the problem. An opponent defender could read it as carte blanche to kick Neymar. “Hell, even his coach doesn’t like it. Get him!” And the number of fouls on one of the most-fouled players in La Liga will grow in number and violence. And why not? He has it coming, with his hair, his Instagram, his … Brazilian stuff.

The black-booted code doesn’t mind a slaloming run that leaves prone defenders in its wake, doesn’t mind a bit of on the ground humiliation from Xavi/Messi/Iniesta humiliation (note the Iniesta flick over the head of the RM defender). Iniesta’s favorite La Croqueta is okay, because the ball stays on the ground? Or is that also “disrespect?”

At what point does football look in the mirror and admit its problems with certain types of players? Back in the day, the careers of players like Diego Maradona were shortened by violence. “If he’s going to have that skill, how else am I going to have a chance. I have to chop him down to my level.” It’s a distressing tendency in the game that has never gone away, and is all the more apparent with Neymar and the way that he plays the game.

He gets fouled a lot because he has the ball a lot. He also gets fouled a lot because he takes on defenders. Would people prefer that he stand on the left and bat the ball back to midfield, unless a clear path to goal — one that doesn’t involve any disrespect — presents itself? And if he doesn’t do that, is the violence okay?

Fouls as a consequence of play are one thing. Fouls because a player is blinded by the red mist are something else entirely. I can’t speak strongly enough about the reprehensibility of the reaction to this latest Neymar incident and to all of them, really. Nobody has that kind of crap coming. Ever. Whenever Iniesta got kicked and chopped down because that was the only to stop him, that isn’t acceptable.

I suppose in the here and now if Barça were to sign Ronaldinho as he was, it would be okay to kick him. “Hey, he shouldn’t do that stuff.” Just because he was smiling when he did it as he successfully perpetrated the notion that he played the game with a childlike joy and flair isn’t a valid reason. Ronaldinho was a thug. All great players are. They want to destroy their opponent. That’s what makes them great. Iniesta is nicer than Ronaldo, but he is no less nasty and desirous of victory. Messi will cut your throat if you block his path to goal. He’s supposed to. It’s what great players do. Destroy, win that psychological battle.

So kick them, which might make them tentative, might make them think, and then a defender gets that little bit of edge back. And the black-booted code says that’s okay, even more so if the player tries some sort of silly, unnecessary flick or trick. Bang the ball off the defender and take the throw, like a man. Or you will be kicked, and it will be okay because you had it coming.

You don’t have to like Neymar to find the violence that tracks him disgusting. You don’t have to like Neymar to not like the comments of his coach after the match, even if you allow for the nuance that maybe, just maybe, Enrique was suggesting that as a hard-nosed player himself, he would have had the same reaction, but that doesn’t condone what happened. Maybe he forgot to say that. Maybe the “he will understand” means that he should just expect to get kicked when he tries that stuff, because that’s the way of the world. Dunno.

What I do know is this: Violence shortens careers. Imagine how close Messi came to something very serious when Ujfalusi decided his ankle was fair game. And don’t come at me with “The two situations are different.” No, they aren’t. Both instances are, at their base, a defender reacting to superior skill with violence. “Try and get past me, will you?”

Fouls are part of the game, even tactical ones. There are retaliatory fouls as well, a “you got ours, so we will get one of yours.” Lots of violence, and it’s all okay. No, attackers shouldn’t be allowed to prance about unfettered. But kicking them because of their skill shouldn’t be okay, nor should wanting to fight because a tenet of the black boot code has been violated. Atleti kicked Iniesta off the pitch last season, and somehow that was okay. It’s never okay. There shouldn’t be some burly dude wearing black boots saying, “He don’t like it uppem, eh? Man’s game!” Would it have been okay for Boateng to clean Messi’s clock after that Bayern goal? No? Of course not.

Then why is it okay for people to display violence against Neymar because he tried a flick?

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

53 Comments

  1. G6O
    May 31, 2015

    There are two difference between Ronaldinho and Neymar:

    1) When Ronaldinho was doing tricks, it was more a case of realized possibilities – he was able to very quickly process the situation, figure out he could do something that nobody expected (thanks to the incredible array of skills he had), and then do it. Neymar (and many other players) have been watching him do that, and now are trying to force the situation so that they can do a trick they have been practicing. It’s a subtle but very significant difference

    2) Ronaldinho’s success rate was much higher – there aren’t that many occasions that I can remember when he failed to pull off whatever he tried. Ironically, even those cases often ended up on highlight reels – there is for example one elastico he tried against Chelsea in 2006 which did not work out, yet I see it repeated all the time in highligh compilations. Which tells you how poorly people understand that aspect of the game. Neymar fails a lot more often. And yesterday he failed again – the ball was going out of bounds whether he was shoved to the ground or not, and it went sideways instead of just above the head of the defender as it should if that trick is executed well. He failed to do it properly against RM in the classico too. And, BTW, he never does properly even when it works, this is how you do it:

    https://youtu.be/uK2vZLN-IOw?t=67

    i.e. with the ball moving and you running, otherwise you have little advantage in the situation and you’re likely to lose the ball.

    Anyway, I am all for doing these kinds of moves, but on the condition that you actually pull them off at a reasonable success rate. Otherwise, you look like a fool (to the trained eye at least, if not the casual fan).

    But there should never be reactions like those of Bilbao’s players – looking like a fool should be more than a sufficient punishment.

    • Inamess
      June 1, 2015

      Great post! The Ronaldinho comparisons are interesting since he and Messi were probably two of Ney’s biggest influences. It seems like Neymar wants to have a signature move and chose really poorly especially for a team like Barca. Nevertheless, despite the overwhelming La Masia pedigree of the 2010-12 team, it looks like our team now has a significantly more South American flavor to it and that’s probably a good thing.

    • Obii
      June 1, 2015

      G60, I don’t even understand your second paragraph. How that paragraph qualifies as a critique of Neymar related to this situation is just beyond me.

      “this is how you do it”. What? What does that even mean? Do you critique an overhead bicycle kick goal if it doesn’t come off the laces? Pshhh what a disgrace that must be to the sensibilities of your trained eye.

      He plays how he wants. He fails a trick, he fails a trick. Has he always been doing this? Yes. Does he have the talent to pull them off more than the average player? Yes. Does he play the role he is given in the team? Yes.

      This high horse mentality of the proper way to do a trick is best reserved for the sunday league teams, and not a player who has cemented his place in the best team in the world through his talent.

    • G6O
      June 1, 2015

      Where have I denied his talent?

      All I said was that if you are going to do that kind of move, you better make sure you have it mastered, and you pull it off successfully. Which is not the case here,

      This has very little to do with his qualities as a player. Messi never does any fancy tricks yet he is approaching the status of the best player ever thanks to his efficiency and overall impact on the game.

  2. MSN
    May 31, 2015

    Great text. I agree completely. I just imagine how boring football would be, without players like neymar, messi, iniesta… People saying doing flicks are “disrespectful” are following the wrong sport.

  3. lala10
    May 31, 2015

    Sometimes footballers do wrong. Even if they wear our colours. That Enrique quote should be a clear marker of the issue. The guy is wrong. That Enrique a normally evasive interviewee was forthright and clear about his view is also indicative.

  4. Raj
    May 31, 2015

    Thank god I was not in barca starting 11 when Neymar owned Athletic defenders, cos I would have laughed in the pitch watching this fun and got caught in cameras… He who got talent shows in his own way….

  5. ChaoticReaper
    May 31, 2015

    Haters gonna hate. Neymar has been winning us games psychologically. 2nd leg of Atletico vs Barca in the Copa del Rey: The score is 2-3. Neymar’s antics cause Atletico to get a red card and Simeone pretty much concedes at the half. One less half to play high intensity football.

    • G6O
      June 1, 2015

      That is a good point – and I was actually thinking about that yesterday. Athletic had just scored and were trying to attack. He did this and there was basically no football being played the last 6-7 minutes. Which was in our benefit.

  6. agar2515
    June 1, 2015

    I’m glad to see many taking what I feel is the proper size here. Unreal how the Bilbao players acted, how the refs didn’t do anything to try and keep them from swarming all over Neymar.nothing but a bunch of sore losers, grandstanding to try and save face when they were played off the park. Lost some respect for them easily

  7. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    Lucho has blown it and we would probably lost the Champions league because of this.

  8. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    Luchos comments were Retarded at best.
    I believe this issue deserves another article from Kxevin in the build up to our’historic treble ‘.
    Calling out one of the most important players on your squad before a UCL final is retarded and Naive.

  9. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    Its a pretty good way to show support for a player just scored his 38th goal for the team. Nice work Luis Enrique.

  10. ams
    June 1, 2015

    To me it was a classic case of mismatch between talent and ego.

    Players with mediocre talent but huge egos, shoving the player with great talent…why, they just cant stop him with the talent they possess. Under the label of “being disrespectful”, it was a case of players with big egos trying to beat the hell out of a player who has more talent then them…they cant digest that fact…and they just don’t know how to stop him. We have seen this happen in every walk of life.

    Off all who talk about Neymar being disrespectful…I am amaze with Atletico Madrid players. They should look in the mirror first. Look at the way they play…those physical tackles…intentionally physical contact…intentionally keeping studs high enough…is that all not being disrespectful. To me they are the most disrespectful footballing team right now. They shouldn’t be preaching the footballing world about what’s respectful and whats disrespectful.

    Also, if Ronaldinho does it and it comes out well its ok. But if Neymar does it and it doesnt come out…then he shouldn’t do it. I mean who are we to tell him what he should do and what he should not do. He knows his football…he is entitled to play the way he wants.

    About the trick, well I think it was legit. He tried that trick to get past the defender which he was successful. He could have been in an advantageous position if not for defender bringing him down. There would be people who will say…well you are not allowed to get past me with those trick…you should get past me with simple dribbles only….well to those people…wake up…take a football, practise like hell, put in shit amount of hardwork and do it if you have guts. If you don’t have guts….just shut up and watch the talent. Its like saying messi is not allowed to get past 4-5 defenders….because its disrespectful.

  11. June 1, 2015

    I like Athletic de Bilbao, but they kicked the hell out of our players (mainly due to what Marca described as the referee’s “admirable” constraint) and kept on doing so even though they had no chance in hell to get back into the match.

    If Neymar’s umbrella flick was meant to humiliate them, they deserved it.

    • ams
      June 1, 2015

      Rightly said Levon.

  12. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    Try telling Messi to stop lobbing goal keepers because they complain it makes them sick Lucho.
    I see PSG rolling into town with a BiG FaT cheque saying ‘ come on boy, here we love you what you are. ‘Trick and all ‘.

  13. ams
    June 1, 2015

    How about what Germany did to Brazil in the WC(7-1)?

    What about what RM did to Granada (9-1)?

    When Saurez nutmeg David Luiz twice to score twice…wasn’t that disrespectful?

    Its game of football…one who has the ball…has to go past the defenders in a legit way and score…just keeping scoring till the 90 mins whistle goes off…one who doesn’t have the ball…has to stop the guy with the ball in a legit way…just trying stopping till the 90 mins whistle goes off.

  14. June 1, 2015

    I agree with G60’s points on comparing Neymar with Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho while he did it, always looked like he just did something which was the most effective thing to do in a particular situation.

    Against Atletico, I thought rather than the skill of Neymar, it was some words he said that provoked the players. And you can always see Neymar exachanging words with the opposition, which is winding them up. Which is not bad in a footballing sense. This is exactly what Deigo Costa does too. Against, Bilbao though, he didnt seem to say anything, so am just confused about the reaction of Bilbao players. May be in Spain there is something like you dont try tricks against a defeat assured team or what, this is what I get from LE’s words. He could have said that directly to Neymar though.

    But I have to disagree with Kevin, on comparing this incident with what Iniesta or Messi. They do lot of amusing things as part of their moving forward or trying to keep possession. We have not seen any opposition player questioning them for that. We see players trying to stop them by kicking or other means, but we dont see any player getting mad with them for what they did, after the incident. I have never felt Iniesta or Messi was trying to show boat on the pitch. Neymar has some reputation for this, may be thats the cause.

    • TITO
      June 1, 2015

      They do showboating, a lot.
      It is also a disrespect when you form a triangle and fool around with an oposition player in the middle. And they do that every time they have a chance, Messi, Busi, Iniesta, Xavi, Alves etc.

    • June 1, 2015

      Ok friend. But then, why havent we seen any opposition players questioning or getting mad with them, like Bilbao players did, after they did a rondo on the pitch? If players get humiliated, angry and violent because they were just dribbled/nutmegged past, then how many times should Messi or Iniesta or even Isco be questioned on the pitch? Nobody seem to question them, other than fouling them, while the game is on.
      (Its only a Pepe who have done something to Messi when ball was not on play, cant remember anything like to Iniesta)
      Fouling while ball is on play and trying violent act/behaviour when the play is not on, are both different. Thats why the Ujafulasi foul on Messi and Bilbao players mad on Neymar cant be compared.

      As in my above post, I am not saying Neymar was wrong yesterday. But there is something else, which we do not know. When this happened with Atletico, it was clear, after his trick he said something and thats when Atletico players got mad. But here, he didnt say anything. So really, I dont understand.

    • TITO
      June 1, 2015

      That’s why i said in one previous post. The problem was not showboating, the problem was Neymar.
      That’s how the opponents see it, and that’s why they will always go after him. They don’t like him, they don’t like his football, his skills, his behavior, his dribbling, and ultimately everything about him.
      What he has to do is to gain respect from La liga players. How he will do it, it’s up to him and the coaches.
      La liga players respect Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Busi… and that’s why they don’t take it so personally, because these guys have earned respect.

  15. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    Teams have to understand it is disrespectful
    to score goals against each other because it
    makes them feel bad and humiliated.
    Even simply running past a defender is
    disrespectful and humiliating them by show
    boating superior mobility,
    Remember if your team is winning, stop
    playing football and allow the other team to
    score a few goals to show sensitivity to their
    self esteem.
    Athletic Bilbao don’t swap shirts they needs a
    hug..,

  16. lovell
    June 1, 2015

    This is the side of the sport where I truly
    dislike. In basketball, people are always
    doing moves to embarass or incite a reaction
    out of the crowd…in football its a disrespect
    thing…you get paid millions of dollars a year
    and people pay big money to watch, they
    want to be entertained, they want to see flair
    and skill. I’m a Spaniard, and its this type of
    mentality that suffocates our youth to
    express themselves. This is why there are so
    few Iscos out there, because all of this is
    frowned upon. What if the game was tied, or
    they were losing? This move couldve got him
    out of the trap he was in to score a goal. So
    childish to call this disrespectful.
    A comment from a spaniard living in Spain.

  17. stefan2k
    June 1, 2015

    I have zero understanding for some hurt spanish egos. Violence is by no means acceptable as a consequence to such an entertaining skill. Furthermore Neys success rate stands in no relation to the opposite teams reaction. His amazing acceleration could have brought him past this defender if not pushed away.

    As a consequence I also feel that Luchos statement was way off.

  18. luisthebeast
    June 1, 2015

    I believe Lucho point was that someday Ney maybe suffer a very serious injury by a player.Well yes Ney did not anything wrong but Lucho is a coach and not the teacher of some schoolkids.I like that he is not a hung guy and that he speaks what he feel and believe.He is a top professional.Pep was more close to the players but Lucho is what he is and i hope he stays like this.

    • June 1, 2015

      Nope. I have to agree with Stefan2k’s assessment that Lucho’s statement was way off. For a coach to justify violence against one of his own players? Preposterous.

  19. lala10
    June 1, 2015

    Football is a sport that often reduces supporters into cliques. These cliques form around clubs and supporters will die to protect their own. As a consequence anything goes if the player is yours. What is clear gets hazy as this notion and that are rationalised. In a broad sense players get removed from reality because they are almost always shielded from reality.

    Suarez bites? No no no biting is not worse than a bad tackle. Ashley Young dives? Aaaa but there was contact. Anything and everything to absolve the player.

    Alex Ferguson publicly called out Young after a series of misdemeanours. Kudos to Enrique for stating in CLEAR terms.

    Football is a hard sport played with high passions. Almost always the players are tightly strung and angry. Thats why they play with such intensity and aggression. To then go and act in a stupid provocative manner is akin to waving a red flag in front of an enraged bull.

    • Jim
      June 1, 2015

      SAF called out Young on his diving which was against the rules. Nothing as far as I can see, Neymar did was against the rules.

  20. June 1, 2015

    Referees should be more proactive in these cases. Is showboating a yellow card offence? No. Is pushing, shoving and undue aggression a yellow card offence? Yes.

    Also, consider the same events in reverse order. The defender cleans out Neymar and shoves and pushes him. Neymar gets up and drops a sombrero on him. Who disrespected whom?

    • June 1, 2015

      Excellent comment. Could not agree more with both sentiments expressed.

  21. G6O
    June 1, 2015

    There are two possible general outcomes from showboating:

    1) It works. In which case as a defender you just have to give respect to the player who did it and move on

    2) It does not work. In which case the player who tried it looks stupid. Which is more than sufficient “punishment” for him.

    That’s where the whole debate should end.

    • Rivaldo
      June 1, 2015

      Wrong.

      First you have to prove that the act itself was showboating. Coming from a similar culture [to Neymar/Dani/etc] where we like to express ourselves and have fun, I am of the opinion it it definitely wasn’t showboating.

      Secondly, there is no rule against showboating[which in my view it wasn’t].
      In that clip above in which our players; Xavi, Messi, Iniesta pass nonchalantly around the Real players… tell me they didn’t know what they were doing there. It’s the same “disrespect” you guys are talking about… maybe because the faces are different and more loveable.

      Some people are so sensitive. Learn to enjoy life. Have fun… Neymar clearly is..LOL

      Visca Barca!!!

      Much Love

    • Rivaldo
      June 1, 2015

      That sensitive comment was a generalization of our world and this comment “atmosphere” sometimes. NO way a direct assault on G60.

      “hands in the air and surrendering to the authorities that be”

  22. ooga aga
    June 1, 2015

    While you are tarring and feathering Luis Enrique, don’t forget Gerard Pique. His comments were more like LE’s than you might like.

    As far as the “violence” goes, define violence? Was it the little push that happened after the sombrero? The yelling afterwards? Was the sombrero itself seen as a form of violence by the atletic players? What else was said or done on the pitch prior to this incident? I don’t know.

    But we got the dobleteeeee….

    • Jim
      June 1, 2015

      Didn’t see what he said, Ooga. Linkie ?

  23. June 1, 2015

    Ney shouldn’t change. At all. It was a foul. If you use a Cruyff turn or a step-over or latigo or whatever to pass the defender and he pushes you to the ground, that’s a foul. It’s a foul and it’s a foul, no matter the way you try to divert attention to it by whining about provocation. “He had it coming showboating like that” is paraphrased “She had it coming in that red dress”.

    The real provocation is when a guy like Godin or Gabi or San Jose or Raul Garcia goes in, cleats out or scythes you from behind and then gestures you to stand up and stop simulating. Have you seen those bastards try it with Masche? No, because he’s going to retaliate and do it perfectly, ask you whether you want to play a bit more. No, they do it on those who can’t shrug off their challenges, on those they can’t stop in another way.

    I have a different idea why Ronaldinho wasn’t targeted for provocation, and it isn’t just because he has such a sunny smiling personality on and off the pitch. For me it was also because defenders would just bounce off his thighs, and the challenges and pushes needed to bring him down could not be excused as stuff from the game, but were seen as intentional violence by someone weaker.

  24. Jim
    June 1, 2015

    A great discussion which brings out the differences in our cultures quite nicely.

    Personal, and maybe controversial, view first. I LOVED that move and it wasn’t as badly executed as has been made out. It went over the defender and bounced slowly at least once in the field of play which means at that speed that Neymar might just have got to it. However, there was cover.

    I’m gonna go back to Kxevin’s article for a minute to say that, to me, the situation here and the one with Scott Brown are completely different. I said at the time that Brown, to me, is basically a bit of a thug who can play a little ( sometimes decent) football. However, I have zero sympathy for Neymar there as he cheated by feigning serious injury, something he did regularly until someone must have had a word. I have to say he’s been better since then and in this game there were far too many snide late challenges throughout the game on him which weren’t accidental.

    I am completely befuddled as to how the defenders can get so upset. The guy it happened to had just kicked Neymar minutes earlier and pushed him in the back as they both ran for the ball. I have to say I laughed long and loud when Neymar did that to him. If it had happened to me in a game I’d have quietly appreciated it then clattered him next chance I got ( which they did anyway). Not sure how you can argue that the guy who has a ball put over his head from a standing start is the one who doesn’t look stupid but you have to man up and accept skill for what it is. So I’m totally on Neymar’s side although he maybe did go down too easily which was the reason for the lack of free kick. There should certainly have been at least a couple of bookings for the aggressive reactions from them.

    So I’m calling BS on the disrespect thing. My memories of football are not really of great goals scored but of moments of genius. I struggle to remember all Messi’s goals but the Arsenal displays ( one left of the keeper, one right, one over the top and one through the legs are about as disrespectful as it gets. Anyone old enough to remember Pele dummying the Czech keeper ? I remember Jimmy Johnstone for Celtic against Red Star who was hacked mercilessly but late on in the game, which Celtic were winning easily, taunted them on the sideline and when they came rushing in held the ball between his legs and jumped into the air to avoid the tackles. I remember him putting Cooper of England on his backside exactly as Leo did with Boateng, I remember Jim Baxter and Dennis Law playing keepie up against England. I remember George Best at the end of his career playing for Hibs in Scotland and first game the grunts in the opposition defence came after him and put him up in the air. Next time he got the ball he rolled it under his foot towards them inviting them to take it off him and when they rushed in he was gone. Brilliant, brilliant memories. Whatever happened to the appreciation of skill and the ” that was just too good” mentality ?

    The worst attributes of cowards is to deal it out when they think they can get away with it but get upset when it happens to them.

    Well done, Neymar !

    • Jim
      June 1, 2015

      Btw, I also didn’t really like LE’s comments. Im not sure how we can take them as anything other than support for the opposition players’ reaction which is shameful. Not sure what Pique said but if it was along the same lines then he is way out of line for me and that won’t help the dressing room. Why on earth would we say anything at this stage which might ruin the atmosphere we have at the moment ?

  25. Inamess
    June 1, 2015

    A few comments on different points:

    1) I see the criticism of Ney as similar to that of Cristiano in his first years at Man U. Neymar was brought to Barca as a potential future Baloon D’or winner and was still is very much an unfinished product. To say the sombrero move is an example of his creative genius that is somehow being stiffed is just not the case. Rather it is an unnecessarily risky move that he seems to pull off about 30% of time against good opponents and to what end? If Neymar is to make the next step in his development then that kind of a move should not be part of his repertoire, rather it represents a regression.

    2) What is viewed as disrespectful to an opponent should be viewed in context. In this case we were playing a club that we have good relations with at an “away game” in front of a crowd in which their supporters were in the majority. That’s not to excuse the Atletic players but it does provide some context to Enrique’s and others’ words. The Cup was won and why shouldn’t we try to smooth the waters with Atletic. What purpose would be served in escalating a conflict between the two clubs and making more of the incident? Athletic are a proud regional club and we need to move on to prepare for a CL final.

    • ciaran
      June 1, 2015

      Neymar is easily the third best player in the world at present and is definitely more skilfull than the player that could be considered seconds meaning that in reality only Messi is above him.
      The next step in Neymar’s development is what exactly? He has scored almost 40 goals this season and still hasn’t changed the player that he is. Tricks are and always should be part of his game and only taking them out of his repertoire would be a regression.

      If tricks like sombreros were low risk then everyone would try them. It takes incredible courage and self belief to attempt them and he beat his man with that trick. The referee should have called a freekick and it would have been a successful dribble.

    • G6O
      June 1, 2015

      To put the 38 goals in some context, Messi scored 38 in 51 games in 2008-2009, which was his real breakout season.

      Neymar has scored 38 in 50 this seasons.

    • Manish
      June 1, 2015

      Neymar will be the #1 in the world.. just a matter of time..

  26. Inamess
    June 1, 2015

    Looks like a new story in Marca is that Morata is going to be the avenging angel to redeem RM and get revenge for Barca fans jeering the Spanish anthem. For me there is too much of a mutual admiration society with Juve going on so we need Chiellini and Morata for some extra incentive and hostility going into the match.

  27. luisthebeast
    June 1, 2015

    Em when Leo will be 33 can please make him again 18y old and enjoy him again???

    • Raj
      June 1, 2015

      Let Leo be 27 all the time… No more patch required let version 3.0 be final version…

    • cain_aconia
      June 1, 2015

      Oh and he didn’t mention Ibra as one of the ‘great’ forwards he played with!

    • Davour
      June 1, 2015

      Nor Bojan, Tello, Cuenca… not even Henrik Larsson! Perhaps he does not like Swedes?

    • Manish
      June 1, 2015

      Messi already has the deadliest of passes from the mid field straight to the throat of the opposition.. i can only think of 1 attribute he needs to improve upon to be among the top mid fielders in the world.. he needs a bit of Xavi.. to be able to control the pace of the game at will..

    • June 3, 2015

      Start him in midfield and he’d be among the top midfielders already, if not the best.

  28. Happiness
    June 2, 2015

    I thought it was great that Xavi was our player with his arm around Neymar, attempting to protect him from the Athleti anger. A true captain in that incident.

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