A YEAR of speculation culminated into explosive news over the weekend, as superstar footballer Neymar switched teams.
The Brazilian striker left legendary Spanish club FC Barcelona for upstart French squad Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record transfer fee of $263 million. That’s more than double the previous record. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, math literate or otherwise, $263 million is no small amount. Picture this: Basically, a football team purchased a player for the price tag that’s worth more than the GDP of six countries.
Drowning out every dollar involved in the move, however, was the backlash. Some called Neymar disloyal. Others labeled him as greedy. In one social-media post that broke the news, the top comment was “#moneymar”.
Championed as a hero one moment and castigated as a villain the next is nothing new in sports. Just some weeks ago, another athlete faced the same denunciation for also wanting to leave his team amid successful campaigns.
Basketball superstar Kyrie Irving plays point guard for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers. Along with once-in-a-generation talent LeBron James, he carried the Cavs to the NBA Finals for three straight years. In 2016 they won the trophy for Cleveland, ending the city’s 40-year championship drought.
Everything was coming up roses, until Irving requested to be traded in late-July. James was reportedly “blindsided” and “devastated”, as per an ESPN report. At least one Cavalier fan already posted a video setting Irving’s jersey ablaze.
Are the public scrutinies for both athletes justified? The answer may rest on the fact buried underneath claims of their supposed bloated egos and chasing of bigger paychecks.
Both Neymar and Irving are 25 years old.
Everyone has and will face uncertainty at some point in their lives. However, the 25-year-old checkpoint is more of a crossroad where most
people get lost. It’s when insecurity and fear usually seeps deepest and strikes hardest. Even BusinessMirror has dedicated a section chronicling people’s journey through that age in a special section called “When I Was 25”.
According to a report by The Guardian, the quarter-life crisis affects 86 percent of millennials. “Quarter-life crises don’t happen literally a quarter of the way through your life,” said Dr. Oliver Robinson, lead researcher from the University of Greenwich in London, in the same report. “They occur a quarter of your way through adulthood, in the period between 25 and 35, although they cluster around 30.”
Of course, most high-profile athletes probably don’t concern themselves with introspective ruminations of whether “Am I making enough money?” or “Am I on the right career path?” What they’re not immune from, however, is the universal need of all quarter-life crisis victims, which may also be the motive of Neymar and Irving’s desire to change teams, and that is the pursuit for an identity.
Neymar was a football wunderkind from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Touted as the next big thing of the sport known as “the beautiful game”, he played for local club Santos, before getting targeted by giant European teams. In 2013 FC Barcelona won the Neymar sweepstakes and signed him to a massive contract. The move paired him with arguably the best football player of all time, Lionel Messi.
Neymar enjoyed tremendous success with Barca, winning a number of trophies and titles, with a total of 105 goals scored to boot. But no matter what, he couldn’t escape the shadows of Messi. That was until last weekend, when he left Camp Nou altogether.
In an emotional farewell video message, Neymar said Messi was “the best athlete I’ve ever seen in my life.” He added: “Barcelona and Catalonia will always be in my heart, but I need new challenges.”
Irving essentially shares the same plot. A prized talent coming out of Duke University, despite playing only one season shortened by injuries, NBA teams coveted him for his natural scoring ability. He got drafted by the Cavs in 2011, and served as the face of the franchise. That lasted until 2014, when James decided to come home to the team after spending four years in Miami.
Following years of settling behind James’s back, Irving decided it’s time to be the main man once again, and move on to a team he can call his own.
While one has had his wish granted and another waits in the wings, what’s clear is that both athletes are done playing Robin to Batman. Both have won at the grandest stage, but as athletes, they want to push forward and test their limits. They want to know if they can lead.
It’s not just separation they’re after. They want distinction.
Image credits: thesource.com via nike