EL FÚTBOL SE LO ESTÁ PERDIENDO

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Cuando irrumpió en Santos FC, Neymar Junior pareció destinado a llevarse el mundo por delante. Cada semana, el joven era noticia. Por sus goles y sus jugadas; por sus guiños a tal o cual equipo europeo. El heredero de Ronaldinho, se pensó en aquel momento. Su firma con el FC Barcelona ayudó a que aquella comparación tomara fuerza. Y aunque más enfocado al gol que Dinho, lo cierto es que sus actuaciones con la camiseta blaugrana dejaron a pocos sin convencer de que estaban en presencia de un fenómeno. Un futbolista por el que valía la pena pagar una entrada o sentarse un rato frente al televisor para esperar algun lujo cargado de creatividad. Un jugador de esos que no aparecen con demasiada frecuencia. La UEFA Champions League conquistada en 2014/15, a pura fantasía y determinación en el tridente que conformaba junto a Leo Messi y Luis Suárez, sirvió para que el rumor se expandiera por todo el mundo futbolero: Neymar sería, en algún momento, el mejor jugador del mundo. El sucesor de Messi y Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pero aquél apenas era el inicio de un guión extenso. Varios años separaban aquel presente super atractivo y la confirmación del pronóstico. Mucho fútbol por jugar. Y lo cierto es que ahora, cuatro años después del asalto europeo con el sello MSN, ahora que Neymar Junior tiene 27 años y es bastante más que una promesa, puede afirmarse que algo no va como se creyó que iría. Neymar no es el mejor jugador del mundo y hay dos primeros motivos para explicarlo: por un lado, la tiranía de Messi y Ronaldo se extendió más de la cuenta, en la enésima comprobación de que serán leyenda por dominar durante tanto tiempo el fútbol mundial. Por otro lado, y no menos importante, debe decirse que el propio atacante brasileño no ha sabido cómo tiranizar Europa, algo que parecía simplemente cuestión de tiempo. Tiempo atrás era común imaginar que quien tuviera a Neymar, sería el que más chances de sumar títulos tendría. Hoy no hay argumentos suficientes para sostener la afirmación sin pensarlo dos veces.

Lo más común en estos días es afirmar, con el diario del lunes y desde la lejanía de las subjetividades, que Neymar Junior ha tomado malas decisiones. Pero lo cierto es que sólo el propio futbolista sabe qué sintió al momento de, por ejemplo, armar las valijas rumbo a Francia para intentar ser el principal motivo de que el Paris Saint-Germain levante su primera Champions League. Desafío deportivo sí que había, pero puede que el brasileño se haya pensado a sí mismo como un futbolista ya hecho por completo. Y en este deporte cada día es una nueva lección. ¿Podía Neymar, a su edad y con sus características, sentar las bases a su alrededor para que los parisinos se acercaran a la Orejona? Lo más probable es que no. Si cumplía su objetivo en el primer intento, hubiese sido una demostración de talento casi sin precedentes. Pero la lógica competitiva de la Champions ha hecho común ciertos procesos y penalizaciones. Los parisinos, además, en su intento desesperado, cambiaron de forma en plena búsqueda: de Unai Emery a Thomas Tuchel, con fuertes renovaciones de plantel incluídas. Puede que ahora lo entienda mejor que antes: durante gran parte de su paso por Barcelona, Neymar estuvo beneficiado por un ecosistema que definía muy bien los roles de cada pieza. En Francia, desesperación e improvisación millonaria atentan contra la consolidación de un equipo dominante. Ganar, golear, crear un sinfín de ocasiones, está al alcance del Paris Saint-Germain en cada encuentro. Pero competir en ventaja ante otras potencias, y alejarse del error, el golpe por golpe, la imprevisibilidad, aún es tarea pendiente.

Para peor, después de lo que fue su gran actuación en la Copa Confederaciones 2013, Neymar tampoco ha podido encontrar un contexto apropiado en su Selección, al menos hasta la llegada de Tité. El Mundial de 2014 parecía una gran oportunidad, y el joven crack, ante su público, emanaba confianza y talento, pero la lesión en su espalda en aquel recordado partido ante Colombia, fue un giro inesperado en el guión: por primera vez, alrededor de Neymar flotó el interrogante de lo que podría haber sido. ¿Había chances de un 1-7 con él en cancha? Imposible saberlo pero difícil no preguntárselo. Lo que sí fue un hecho es que en las dos Copa América posteriores, el Scratch tampoco estuvo a la altura y Neymar, que al menos en ese entonces brillaba en Barcelona, poco pudo hacer. La llegada de Tité devolvió estabilidad a un equipo que pudo volver a transmitir sensaciones de candidato. Pero en el esperado Mundial de Rusia 2018, a pesar de buenas actuaciones colectivas, Brasil sucumbió antes de la cuenta frente a las transiciones belgas. Neymar, que no llegó en su mejor forma física, vio pasar otro tren hacia su trono de mejor jugador del mundo.

Por otro lado, en un fútbol tan parejo y lleno de variables, la mentalidad resulta un factor no menor. Y a Neymar, el joven que tarde o temprano sería el mejor, le ha costado asimilar tantas presiones y miradas a su alrededor. Más de una vez se lo vio competir con demasiados aires individualistas, en lo que puede considerarse un camino equivocado: para llegar al trono, necesita compañía; un equipo que le potencie. Ahí también se explica la demora del pronóstico. Puede que hoy en día, Neymar sea la individualidad más determinante del mundo. Por explosión, madurez y capacidad para marcar diferencias en el uno contra uno, el brasileño goza de un status al que quizás sólo Eden Hazard pueda acercarse con claridad. Pero los mejores de la historia, a diferencia de Ney, saben potenciar también el juego colectivo. Crear contexto donde no lo hay. Involucrar la mayor cantidad de piezas para facilitar el bienestar general. En ese sentido, los últimos intentos a nivel club y selección vieron al atacante dejar su habitual función de extremo izquierdo para ganar más peso en carril central y ver si, de esa manera, podía transformarse definitivamente en el epicentro del sistema. Pero no hay dudas de que en sus -apenas- dos temporadas con el Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar ha tenido problemas para hacer del suyo un gran equipo. Claro que no es sólo su culpa, pero sí que resulta el más perjudicado. Porque el talento ya está demostrado; es cuestión de que pueda enfocar la libertad total con la que cuenta de la mejor manera, y en los días más importantes. Las lesiones en los playoffs de las últimas dos Champions atentaron contra el progreso del astro brasileño. Cuando no estuvo, su equipo cayó. Y a pesar de no estar presente en las derrotas, por el peso de su propia figura, sí que estuvo en el centro de la escena. Una nueva lesión acaba de marginarlo de la próxima Copa América, un evento en el que, con su Selección como máxima favorita, podría haber relanzado sus aspiraciones de trono. La ausencia vuelve a expandir una sensación de que pasan los años y Neymar no logra hacerse del lugar que le correspondía. Ahora, a sus 27 años, la certeza se transformó en duda. Y quien más lo lamenta es el propio fútbol.

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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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