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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Neymar's Choice to Stay at Santos Inspires Hope for the Beautiful Game

Santos forward Neymar’s decision to snub Chelsea in favor of staying at his Brazilian club Santos signals that something new is afoot in world football. European clubs have traditionally had their choice of South American football players because of higher salaries and increased international publicity. But in this case, Santos successfully contested Chelsea's bid by raising Neymar’s compensation through a combination of increased salary and merchandising deals estimated at $1.2 million, annually. Neymar’s decision was considered a victory for Brazilian soccer because it allows him to develop his technical skills in a familiar environment that rewards player creativity, freedom and guile. The decision is also likely to encourage other Brazilian players to ply their craft in Brazil instead of venturing to Europe before their abilities have been more completely realized. Pele, Mario Zagallo and Brazil coach Mano Menezes all advised Neymar to stay at Santos, almost uniformly claiming that Neymar does not have the muscular physique required to flourish in Europe at the tender age of 18, amongst other reasons. Staying at Santos also allows Neymar to continue playing alongside the attacking midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso in what many feel could become a partnership that will be replicated and feared in international football.

Speaking of the week's dramatic negotiations between Chelsea and Santos, Santos president Luis Alvaro remarked: "We've built a different possibility. We no longer accept the idea that we're an underdeveloped nation always at the mercy of the powerful European clubs." Neymar’s choice is likely to allow him to develop his dribbling and creative style of play as well as provide Brazil coach Mano Menezes with a powerful Santos platform to feed directly into the Selecao. More importantly, the Neymar-Chelsea-Santos drama reveals the power of South American football to resist the pressures of European capital to appropriate promising technical ability into drab but effective goal scoring machines. In recent years, European clubs have stifled the creative development of many promising South American players such as Robinho, Adriano and Juan Roman Riquelme, so Neymar's independent decision to remain in Brazil marks a small but important victory for attacking, creative and spectacular football.

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