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Enjoying yourself is an essential part of living a fulfilled life and we can strive for many different things within our careers and personal lives that help us achieve this happiness. For some it may be money, others recognition and for a lot of people it may be socialising, parties or owning nice things.
Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather had a hugely successful career and is considered by some as the greatest boxer of all time, boasting a hugely impressive record of 49 wins with zero defeats to his name.
He was also known for spending huge amounts on his cars and homes as well as throwing massive parties and spending enormous amounts in casinos and nightclubs. It was this lavish lifestyle which earned him the nickname ‘Money’ but his out-of-the ring exploits never detracted from his obvious boxing abilities.
Rob Gronkowski was an exceptional NFL player; he holds the record for most touchdowns per game for any tight-end in NFL history and smashed the single season record for most touchdown catches by a tight-end with 17. Gronk, as he was known, also had a keen taste for a party during his career, including hiring a cruise liner known as the Gronk party ship that was used for a four-day party and included more than 12 lounges and other recreational facilities on board.
The reason I am looking to these examples of athletes who have enjoyed themselves throughout their career is to highlight that it is possible to reach your potential within sport without cutting back on your lifestyle.
I also wanted to emphasise how easily sports fans can forgive you for this so long as you still produce the goods. Something Neymar is currently struggling with at PSG.
Those close to Neymar came out and told the world that his decision to leave Barcelona in 2017 was a footballing one. He was perceived to be in the shadow of Lionel Messi and was ready to step out of that to assert himself as the best player in world football. That hasn’t quite gone to plan. In the year he joined the Parisian giants, he came third overall in the Ballon D’or standings, in his second year he came 12th and last year he did not even make the cut for the top 30 whilst two of his teammates, Kylian Mbappe and Marquinhos, came sixth and 28th respectively.
If that genuinely was the reason that Neymar made the move, it has to be said that he is well off getting close to achieving his goal. The reason that has been suggested for this is Neymar’s own lavish lifestyle. Last week, the media hammered him again.
He rented out a high-end nightclub and invited 400 people all to celebrate his birthday just days before PSG’s next fixture. In fact, Neymar has been conveniently injured on his birthday all three seasons he has been in Paris and whilst that may be nothing more than unfortunate coincidence, last year he was hobbling around on crutches. It doesn’t help the narrative.
As I have mentioned, however, it is still perfectly possible to indulge in off-field activities and still be able to produce on it. Neymar himself hasn’t just started to become a flamboyant figure, he was still this way when partnering with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona and managed to be a part of the most feared attacking trio at that time.
For me, the problem is deeper than that and more reflective of PSG and the French “Ligue 1” as a whole. They have fueled Neymar’s celebrity and stardom. He is almost untouchable within the ranks and is the star of the show no matter where he goes or how well he plays in France.
Just days before his birthday, Neymar played against Montpellier in a league game and received the ball with three defenders around him. He attempted to flick the ball over the heads of the defenders and failed. The referee then came over to him to advise Neymar that he could potentially incite retaliation from his opponents if he continued to try and humiliate them.
Neymar threw his toys out of the pram at the suggestion he should be careful in any way and was subsequently booked for his reaction.
At 28, there is still time for Neymar to perform as one of the best players on the highest stage but he has to change his mind set on what is important on the pitch.
Messi and Ronaldo are not just beautiful to watch but they are ruthless in their performances. Neymar’s dancing on and off the field might see him boogie into obscurity with a new generation of superstars coming up behind him not least his own teammate Mbappe. The boy from Brazil might just have to leave the Parisians to get back to where he needs to be.