(When) will Neymar become the best player in the world?


Roberto Carlos, Xavi, the Daily Telegraph, BBC and Squawka.com

These were just a few of the voices that flat out declared Neymar to be the 2nd best player in the world (behind someone not named Cristiano).  Before the season, it seemed crazy to even speculate about anyone breaking into the stratosphere of Messi and CR7, and now just before Thanksgiving here we are: Neymar is arguably better than Cristiano Ronaldo. Let’s examine how it happened, and whether the Artful Dodger (shoutout to Ray Hudson) will become the best player in the world.

Well, we know he can do this or this! (“QUE BRUTAL!!!”)but what do the numbers say?

  1. STATS

Looking at his statistics from this year and last year, we see a remarkable jump in production. According to Squawka, he finished with 22 goals and 7 assists in La Liga with 52 chances created.

http://www.squawka.com/players/neymar/stats#performance-score#barcelona-(current)#spanish-la-liga#23#season-2014/2015#136#all-matches#1-38#by-match

Neymar this year has 14 goals and 7 assists in just 16 combined games in La Liga (12 goals in 11 games with 4 assists)and the Champions League (2 goals in 5 games with 3 assists) with 42 chances created!

To recap, he has created 80% of the number of chances and scored 63% of the goals in ELEVEN GAMES, or in ONE THIRD, or 33% of the time.

http://www.whoscored.com/Players/50835

He’s averaging 4.5 shots per game with a whopping 4 Key passes per game. His accuracy is a remarkable 60% He is winning 59% of his duels and is getting fouled over 4 times a game on average.

Last season, his SPG was 2.9 with 1.9 key passes, while averaged 3 fouls suffered.

Again, he is at least 25% better.

Okay, so he is having a great season, but where does that put him in the context of other great players?

Well, he is leading La Liga with his 12 goals, Luis Suarez is 2nd with 11. Noone else has over 10.

http://www.whoscored.com/Players/22221

In Spain, it is Suarez, remarkably, who is the closest comparison to Neymar in terms of goals (11), assists  (3)and shots per game (4).

Ronaldo, for comparison,  has 8 goals in 12 games in La Liga, with 5 of those coming against  Espanyol in one game. The Portuguese superstar has also not scored in 10 of 16 games.

In European football, Neymar ranks 4th in total goals (12), behind Jamie Vardy’s 13 goals and the duo of Robert Lewandowski (14) and Aubameyang (15).  So, again right at the top with 3 of the best in form center forwards in the game, despite playing as a left winger/forward.

Well, we know he can finish with the best of them, but how does he create for others?

This year, Neymar’s avg. chances created is 3.35 per game, while Messi was creating 2.5 last year.

For total chances created here is the top 5, courtesy of ESPN.com

Most chances created:
Dimitri Payet (Marseille) 133
Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg) 111
Eden Hazard Chelsea) 99
Nolito (Celta Vigo) 94

Provided, he keeps his current form up, the Brazilian is expected to finish with 127! (38gms * 3.35)

Also, his 4 Key passes are tied with West Ham darling, Dmitri Payet for 2nd place behind EPL assist king Mesüt Özil, who has 4.7 per game.

GRAPH

The following graph from an excellent Barcelona fansite further outlines Neymar’s dominance. Neymar is the RED dot, Messi is the WHITE dot.

“To give you an idea of just how special Neymar’s 2015/16 performance has been, thus far, here’s a graph. It compares all La Liga forwards with more than 500 minutes (and 2014/15 Messi) by chances created per 90 and shots on target per 90 (two of the more reliable measures).”

 

From BBC.com

Neymar’s touches
Last three games with Messi Last three games without Messi
74 v Roma 105 v Getafe
76 v Levante 111 v Bate Borisov
64 v Celta Vigo 95 v Villarreal
Average: 71.3 Average: 105

“In Messi’s absence this season, Neymar has scored 13 goals in 14 games and created an astonishing 55 chances – when playing with Messi, he created only 82 over the entirety of 2014/15.”

Again, those are player of the year statistics.

For a better summary, you can basically say that Neymar is doing this year, what he did in the last 2 games versus Real Madrid in Roma:

  •  this vs Roma, ended in a goal
  • This was NOT an assist, according to the statistics.
  • In El Clasico, he picked up a goal and an assist and got Isco a red card.
  • Officially, he had 167 touches, 10 shots, 5 on target and 9 key passes.

At this rate, the question isn’t whether Ronaldo should be worried about Neymar overtaking him, but whether Lionel Messi should…

FYI, The Ballon d’Or ceremony takes place in mid January. Currently, Messi is a gigantic favorite at 1/12, while Neymar is an 18 to 1 bet. Given, Neymar’s massive UCL contributions (10 goals) to last year’s magical campaign, his form this year, and that Messi (who might lose some votes to voter fatigue a la Michael Jordan) has basically played 5 games this season, would it really be that much of a surprise if Neymar won?

 

Additional sources:

http://www.goal.com/en/news/722/la-liga/2015/11/24/17643812/neymar-is-the-most-impressive-player-in-the-world-robertohttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/players/neymar/12002663/How-Neymar-usurped-Cristiano-Ronaldo-as-the-second-best-player-in-the-world.html

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