This summer, Brazil’s national team will participate in two international competitions deemed to be of utmost importance.
First, in June, the full national team will participate in the Copa América Centenario in the United States. Then, in August, Brazil’s u-23 national team, plus three selected overage players, will participate in the Olympic Games football tournament which will be held throughout Brazil in venues that also hosted matches during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The biggest question for Brazil this summer will be what to do with Neymar.
The 24-year old has been the talisman of the Brazilian national team for the past few years, and it was his absence that many believe led to the Mineirazo; Brazil’s 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany during the 2014 World Cup.
Neymar’s importance to the national team cannot be overstated. Without him, as was the case during the final stages of last summer’s Copa America and the opening two games of World Cup Qualifying, Brazil struggles for creativity.
While new additions to the national team, Douglas Costa and Lucas Lima, help to alleviate some of the creativity lost without Neymar, Brazil is unquestionably a better side with Neymar than without.
All of that brings up a crucial question Brazil will need to answer this summer:
Should Neymar play in both the Copa América and the Olympics?
The answer isn’t as easy as it seems. Because the Copa América falls on FIFA’s calendar, Barcelona are required to release Neymar to participate, if called up.
However, because Neymar would be one of Brazil’s over-age players at the Olympics, Barcelona are not required to release him.
Dunga has so far remained noncommittal to Neymar’s fate this June. At last week’s Copa América draw, Dunga told reporters that he had not yet spoken with Barcelona, but that, “our intention is to talk to the clubs and find the best solution that will not hurt anyone. We have to speak personally to the player and find a good solution for everyone.”
Clearly Barcelona will want to protect one of their best players. However, allowing Neymar to play in the Olympics in his home country, in the one major tournament that Brazil has never won could be beneficial for them. The tournament, and especially a victory, would raise Neymar’s already sky-high profile in his home country, as well as provide some good will on behalf of the club.
The most likely scenario is that which Spain’s Mundo Deportivo reported last week, that the Brazilian federation and Barcelona will come to an agreement that would allow Neymar to play in the Olympics while sitting out the Copa América.
While this would be a setback for Brazil’s hopes in the United States, it would be a decision that would certainly make them the favourites at the Olympics, the tournament that, at least at face value, seems to be the more important of the two.
A Brazilian gold medal would not only provide at least a tiny bit of redemption for 1950 and 2014, but would also signify a new start for a Seleção, behind their stable of young talent.
A gold medal would only further the perception of the upcoming generation’s status as the golden generation.
On a final note, Neymar playing in the Olympics would give him a chance to both train and play with that up and coming collection of players, which includes young attacking talents such as Gabriel Jesus of Palmeiras, Gabriel Barbosa (Gabigol) of Santos, and Grêmio’s Luan.
Those training sessions could help build a relationship between the future front line of Brazil. A relationship that could have benefits for the national team down the road as they look to re-establish themselves at the top of the sport.