Santos teenager Neymar's stock rose to new heights as he played a pivotal role in Brazil's 2-0 victory over Scotland, the Chelsea target notching both goals in the win (and being subject to a not-so-fun bit of racism when a banana was thrown at him after he won, then scored a penalty). Neymar had been linked to a move with Chelsea at the end of last summer, but Pele himself had urged the then 18 year-old to stay with Santos so as to avoid hindering his growth with a move to a foreign country.
Neymar stayed for this season, and frankly it was probably the right choice - he's had a hugely impressive year and he looks poised to cash in big-time when he finally does make the move to Europe. Is he ready now? Brazil manager Mano Menezes was asked if he thought a move to Chelsea would be good for Neymar after the match:
I think that [a transfer to Chelsea] could only be good for Neymar. Going to England would give him more physical strength, to enable him to escape strong marking. If he got that, he would be a more complete player to of course it would be good for him.
-Mano Menezes. Source: Guardian.
Considering how opposed many in Brazil seemed to be to losing Neymar last summer, this quote's a little bit surprising - I was expecting to see Menezes be totally opposed to the idea of Neymar moving to Stamford Bridge after the repeated failure of big-name Brazilian players making their way to the Premier League. But then I realised that Chelsea are rapidly becoming a special case. Ramries has settled in nicely and turned into a Champions League calibre midfield dynamo. David Luiz has become an instant Chelsea hero. U-17 star Lucas Piazon has also signed a pre-contract agreement with the club.
In other words, Chelsea is rapidly becoming the destination for Brazilians in the Premier League, one of the only teams that's shown that it can help players out of Brazil or Portugal adjust to the rigours of life in England*. The presence of two players who should be stalwarts for the national team will only make London a more popular destination for the Neymars of the world. By showing Brazilians that they can succeed in a league that's previously been less than perfect for them, Chelsea may have gained a major advantage in securing their services down the road.
*Liverpool seem to have done this mostly by accident with Lucas, while the da Silva twins at Manchester United need a little more development to be a true success story.