Is Neymar Jr a selfish player?

Saikat Kumar Dey
4 min readDec 2, 2018


Image source:

The hatred towards Neymar is insane! We read all over the internet how much of a selfish player he is! People’s opinions are formed from the subjective treatment that Neymar receives from the media. But, what does the data say?

Who is a selfish player, really? For the sake of the argument, let’s say that a selfish player is one who doesn’t think about the team & plays for himself. Good, now that we have got the definition out of the way, let’s focus on Neymar’s career from 2013-present in this article.

Neymar joined Barcelona in 2013 as a Brazilian wonder-kid who was crushing the Brazilian league as the Santos’ talisman. We’ll take assists & key-passes as a key parameter for player’s unselfishness.

2013–2014 Barcelona LaLiga

Neymar had 8 assists in 19 games (he was used as a substitute in 7 matches).

2013–2014 | Barcelona | UCL

Neymar had 3 assists in 9 matches. Messi had none.

2014–2015 | Barcelona | La Liga

Neymar had 7 assists in 29 matches in this season.

2014–2015 | Barcelona | UCL

Neymar had 10 goals in this tournament, joint highest scorer along with Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. Barcelona went on to win this tournament.

2015–2016 | Barcelona | La Liga

Neymar had 12 assists in this season

2015–2016 | Barcelona | UCL

Neymar had 4 assists in the tournament

2016–2017| Barcelona | La Liga

Just observe Neymar at the top with 11 assists and the highest rating for the first time.

2016–2017| Barcelona | UCL

Neymar at the top again with 8 assists.

2017–2018| PSG | Ligue 1

Neymar had 13 assists and 19 goals from 20 appearances. He had more assists than Messi & Ronaldo in this season even though he missed half of the season due to injury!

2017–2018 | PSG | UCL

3 assists from 7 appearances

Neymar is one of the top assisters at the highest levels for both Barcelona and PSG. He’s a great play-maker and has the most number of key-passes in almost all of the matches that he plays in. If you actually watch him play, you’ll notice that he’s the difference maker.

Let the data speak for the last couple of years:

Neymar has 3.5 key passes per game. He also attempts 7.1 dribbles per game. On an average Neymar is dispossessed 2.9 times per game (Messi, 3 times per game but no one complains?)

People complain that he’s a ball-hogger and loses possession a lot. This is true. But he’s a generational player and one of the best dribblers of our time. His dribbles break oppositional defense, taking defenders out of their position allowing free space to his team-mates in attack. This is tactical. He takes a lot of risks in the field. Some work out, some don’t.

Neymar- 3 key passes per game , Messi — 2.3. Neymar attempts 5.6 dribbles per game compared to Messi’s 3.7. Neymar gets dispossessed 2.8 times, Messi get dispossessed 2.6 times.
More key passes / dribbles per game than Messi. Dispossessation rate is also similar.

Neymar is the most fouled player in the game, at the highest levels. Yes, his antics on the field might be a turnoff but guess what? He does it to protect himself and win fouls for the team. You know what happened in WC 2014 when Colombia’s Juan Zuniga broke Neymar’s back? Did the referee give a red card to Juan Zuniga? It was not even a tactical foul! Neymar exaggerates the fouls & tries to convince the referees to punish the defenders so that they’ll be warned. That’s why he simulates the injuries on-field so that he doesn’t end up with a career-ending injury. Most players do that.

Look at this shameless tweet,

and the apt reply

This is the heights of hatred towards one of the greatest footballers of this generation. People’s subjectivity knows no bounds when it comes to Neymar. People say that he was really bad at the world cup. Do you know that he’s directly joined the team after a mid-season injury? If you think that he was bad, please read the statistical analysis of each one of his world cup matches.

Source of all statistical data: