Two of the world’s most in demand strikers have the chance to showcase their ability for their countries in New Jersey at the MetLife Stadium early Thursday morning.
In the World Cup in Brazil in two years’ time, Neymar will be one of the men expected to deliver the trophy for the host nation. If Colombia are to be dangerous in the tournament, they probably need Radamel Falcao, one of the most talented strikers in the world, to be at his peak.
Although the friendly in the United States will carry little of the intensity of a World Cup match, the presence of Neymar and Falcao lends an intriguing dimension. When Europe’s wealthiest clubs settle on the attackers they would like to sign, the names of these two players will feature on most lists.
Falcao’s scorching performances, first for FC Porto and now for Atletico Madrid, mean he is now familiar to the European audience. While many football followers outside South America will know Neymar only from YouTube clips of his remarkable goals, they will surely start to know him better soon.
The 20-year-old Santos player is expected to move to one of Spain’s powerhouses, and Barcelona are the favourites to claim his signature.
Deco, the former Barca midfielder who also spent two seasons at Chelsea, believes Neymar is already at the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar himself has described Messi as the world’s finest player, and says it would be “a dream” to join the Argentinian in Catalonia.
Neymar has a spectacular range of skills and feet as sharp as his mind. Comfortable picking up possession deep and racing at his opponents, Neymar has scored 16 times in his 25 senior appearances for Brazil and averages a goal every other game for his club.
European supporters might have to wait a little longer to watch Neymar regularly, however. His contract at Santos extends beyond the 2014 World Cup and when he signed his latest deal, in November 2011, it brought a 50 per cent pay rise.
Yet it is easy to imagine Neymar playing in the Champions League for many years, and if he can emulate the achievements of tomorrow’s main rival, he will be a very proud man.
Falcao’s hat-trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup was a perfect summary of his attributes: power, technique, intelligence and ruthless finishing. His 10 goals in as many matches are keeping Atletico Madrid in the race for the Spanish title but such is his prowess that it seems inevitable he will soon move again.
Atletico hope to keep him for the rest of the season. Thereafter, it is unclear who Falcao, 26, will represent. Chelsea have wanted the player for more than a year yet there is also a chance he will stay in the same city and wear the white of Real Madrid.
Neymar and Falcao could be adversaries in arguably the fiercest rivalry in club football. Tomorrow’s international should be a fascinating indication of how they might shape up.