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Hi haters. It's me, Neymar.

Can't stand the way Neymar over-sells fouls? You're missing out on all the fun.

David Ramos

Neymar went down very easily to win a penalty against AC Milan on Wednesday. I hesitate to call it a 'dive' because Ignazio Abate put his arm across Neymar and pulled on his shoulder, which is a penalty-worthy foul, and Neymar just made sure the referee saw this. You might think that what Neymar did is cheating and feel he's a disgraceful player. In the English-speaking world, this will be talked about more than the rest of his performance.

The second most notable thing that Neymar did against Milan was miss from 12 yards when he had a clear shooting lane. He did this after beating three defenders.


First, he beats Abate, who he beat for the penalty, a couple times before the penalty, and many times after. He very easily could have shot after doing that. Then he beats Cristian Zapata simply because he can and opts not to shoot again. Seeing Philippe Mexes in front of him, he figures he might as well create the defining moment of his first season at Barcelona and beat him too before scoring a goal that ends up on every Neymar highlight reel until the end of time.

He didn't score, but I don't love this sequence any less for it. He didn't have to score because Milan were terrible, despite the close 2-1 score. He beat all of those players simply because he could, and while this is completely speculative, I'm guessing that he was not fully focused on getting his technique correct on the shot like he would have been at a time when he actually had to score. At 0-0 in the 90th minute, that shot beats Christian Abbiati to the far post.

On Friday, in Barcelona's last game, Neymar set up the winning goal against Catalan rivals Espanyol. It was the game's only goal. He nutmegged two people with a jaw-dropping assist.

This isn't a thing that anyone should be able to do, but especially not a 21-year-old, playing on the same team as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, combining perfectly with the former and outshining the latter in his first season in Europe.

The best part is that he's trying all of this outrageous stuff on a regular basis, it's working, and he's doing it without being selfish or slacking defensively. He's working his ass off for the team while entertaining people and making opponents look stupid.

Neymar has been one of the world's best attacking players for a few years, but now he's doing it on the world stage for a team that asks him to do more than just sit high up the pitch, wait for the ball to come to him and make crazy things happen when it does. He's maintained everything that people who have always loved him loved about him while incorporating new skills and becoming a player who works hard for a team where he's not the only star.

Hate him for selling fouls if you wish, but you might miss out on the evolution of a flashy talent into one of the most complete attacking players in the world, not to mention the most fun player the world has seen since Ronaldinho. He's just about everything that anyone could ever want a footballer to be, except he goes down easily.

Are you going to let that get in the way of enjoying the best young player in the world?

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