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After PSG – Montpellier – How Neymar became the best on penalty

After PSG – Montpellier – How Neymar became the best on penalty

It is already time to decide. Between Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, the tensions linked to the second penalty from PSG – Montpellier, kicked and transformed by the star Auriverde while the Frenchman would have liked to have a new chance after a first failure, should force Christophe Galtier to appoint a clear and definitive shooter . To make his choice, the Parisian technician will have, on the one hand, the desire not to erode the leadership of the Bondynois. And, on the other, the possibility of reinforcing the one who is probably the world reference in this exercise.

Because where Mbappé has not yet found the right method to give credibility to his desires, Neymar has worked out his formula. He’s worn it, tested it, and tweaked it to the smallest detail throughout a gigantic experience in the field. To understand the evolution of the Brazilian in this exercise, you have to go back to a time when Neymar was not quite Neymar yet.

Back to February 7, 2010. “Ney” is only 18 years old, he is already talking about him in Santos for his brilliant talent, his breathtaking dribbling and his eccentric hairstyles. That evening, he faces a player who, in Brazil, is then a much bigger star than him. Rogerio Ceni, 37-year-old goalkeeper who has already accumulated more than 1,000 professional matches, faces him in an electric São Paulo – Santos. We play the 70th minute and when she gets a penalty, the team of the young prodigy is then trailing 3-2. The one in whom the fans already see the successor of Pelé then grabs the ball and carefully puts it on the point located eleven meters from the goal.

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In his run up, he multiplies the small steps, stops dead, feigns a strike which forces Ceni to dive on his right. The attacker only has to push the ball to the opposite side. And equalize. The next day, the local press is agitated. Popularized by “King“, the “short stop” (translate “the little downtime“) is quite common in South America but it is still controversial. Firstly because it does not quite respect the spirit of the game, then because it can be likened to a kind of humiliation. And we do not humiliate Rogerio Ceni.

The “stop” then the failures

All this fuss has visibly reached the ears of a certain Jérôme Valcke. The Frenchman was then Secretary General of FIFA and decided to pass a new law with the IFAB, the body that governs the rules of football. “FIFA has nothing else to do?“, wonders then the one who, already, did not have his tongue in his pocket. The new rule now stipulates that “feints during the run are allowed, but feigning the shot after the run-up is over is now illegal and is a violation of Law 14.”

If Neymar does not really appreciate the news, it is because he was, even before signing a pro contract with Santos, a true follower of “short stop“.”When he could do that, no one wanted to take penalties for himwill later tell Marcelo Martelotte, one of his former coaches at Santos, in an interview broadcast on the official YouTube channel of the player. He put them all on. But when he had to change his way, he missed a few.”

Neymar and Kylian Mbappé each took a penalty against Montpellier… but not with the same success – 08/13/2022

Credit: Getty Images

The Brazilian star therefore had no choice but to adapt his process. The run-up remained the same but the downtime disappeared. Efficiency with. For several seasons, including after his arrival in Europe, Neymar will be content to be a layman and even unworthy of his status. During the 2015/2016 financial year, while his attacking companions Messi and Suarez were not really successful either, the Auriverde winger alternated good and bad at eleven meters, with 5 missed penalties between February 11, 2015 and February 3, 2016.

It’s anecdotalattempts to reassure then coach Luis Enrique. I find them confident, especially Leo but Luis and Ney as well. This is not a problem. The only thing we can do is ask the opposing goalkeeper to let us know which side he’s going to dive into!“In reality, other solutions exist. A few days later, against Villarreal, the Mogi das Cruzes player will succeed with a panenka. It will mark a before and after in his way of taking penalties.

Technically extremely effective… but risky

Because after that, and while the IFAB decided to toughen the rule before major competitions (Euro and Copa America du Centenaire), by sanctioning with a yellow card and a free kick for the opposing team a player feigning a strike after his run-up from the penalty spot, Neymar adopts a new method.

In 2012, Neymar did not slow down his momentum to take a penalty

Rather than taking a time out and feinting before touching the ball, the striker now chooses to slow down and delay his shot as much as possible. Objective ? Forcing the keeper to dive in order to be able to choose the opposite side. Technically, the process is much more difficult to achieve than it seems, since the decision must be made in a fraction of a second and the shot taken without having your eyes on the ball. But it is devilishly effective.

Since fully integrating this know-how, Neymar has converted 46 of the 52 penalties he has taken. This brings its conversion rate to 88%, whereas it hardly reached 73% before. Better still, 36 of these 46 goals were scored by taking the goalkeeper on the wrong foot. Thus, for four seasons, Alban Lafont has been the only goalkeeper to have stopped an attempt by the Brazilian by choosing the right side. Most of the other porters end up not really diving, trapped by the Parisian’s strategy.

From now on, they are therefore the ones who question the shooter. “I came to him and I said to him: ‘you know that if I arrest you, I’m a star?‘, will tell Jessy Moulin after PSG – Troyes last May. He laughed and I said to him: ‘Please tell me at least which side you are going to shoot.'” Neymar did not give a clue. And the Trojan doorman was added to the long list of victims of the former adaptation of the “short downtime“, who has become a specialist in the great slowdown.

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