David Neres: Ready for a move to Europe’s big 5

A knee injury might have curtailed his season last year but David Neres once again showed that he has all the makings of a top class attacker. A move away from Holland is a case of when not if but just how good is the Brazilian 23-year-old?

Breaking out in Brazil

Neres started his football career in his homeland of Brazil with Sao Paulo. His senior breakthrough in came 2016 at age 19 after spending nine years in the clubs academy and reserve side. For a couple of months he was just in and around the first team but when his opportunity to make it onto the grass came, he quickly made his mark.

His debut came and went with a substitute appearance against Fluminese but five days later he started against Ponte Preta. He capped a decent performance by hitting the net for the first time after following in a Thiago Mendes shot that had struck the upright. Within a fortnight he was at it again; this time scoring in a 4-0 rout of Corinthians. It was a different type of goal though with Neres receiving a pass from Christian Cueva, holding off his marker inside the box before swivelling and burying a low shot.

Fast forward to January 2017 – just four months after his first senior appearance – and Neres arrived at Ajax. The fee? £10m. All in all, he’d netted three goals in 11 games in Brazil.

Hot in Holland

An outlay of that amount is far from a small one for a Dutch side. That’s particularly true when you consider just how unproven Neres was at the time. He quickly set about showing the Ajax faithful why they’d shelled out though. After a couple of appearances for the under 21 side, Neres was brought into the first team. He had an involvement in six goals (three goals, three assists) in eight Eredivisie matches. David Neres had arrived. He also made a few fleeting appearances in their Europa League run that saw them lose to Manchester United in the final.

Six weeks into the next season, Neres nailed himself down as a starter in the side. He was regularly playing 90 minutes – or the best part of – and his impact was clear for all to see. Although Ajax missed out on the league title by four points, Neres had starred with 14 goals and 13 assists from 32 appearances. A goal involvement every 94 minutes.

The 2018/19 season wasn’t bad either as Ajax made the Champions League semi-finals and won a league and cup double on the domestic front. The side was full of talented players. Neres was one of them without question. During the campaign he scored a total of 12 goals and laid on a further 15. In fact, given the nature of their loss to Tottenham in the Champions League you might argue that had Neres been fit for the second leg they may have gone through to face Liverpool in the final. It wasn’t to be though.

An Ajax exodus and transfer links

After such an attention grabbing European campaign it was little surprise that Ajax players featured heavily in the gossip columns. Matthias de Ligt, Frankie de Jong and Kasper Dolberg moved on for a combined £163m.

Neres was rumoured to be a target for English duo Man United and Arsenal as well as Atletico Madrid in Spain. He killed any speculation penning a new deal in July 2019. Now though, don’t be surprised if new links emerge in spite of his limited action in the 19/20 season.

As we’ve come to expect, Neres was providing a creative spark on a regular basis in the opening months of the season with six goals and an assist in 635 minutes. Then came a cruel injury blow that – along with coronavirus – ended his season. When he’s fit he is unquestionably one of the best players in the Eredivisie. Given he’s back in training along with the fact the transfer window runs until early October this year, don’t be surprised if his name hits back pages once again.

Where will David Neres end up?

Recent reports online state a return to Brazil isn’t an impossibility for Neres after the winger cited his desire to one day play for Flamengo. That won’t be a destination until much later in his career though so don’t be alarmed. He will move on from Ajax though be it this window, the next or even in 12 months time. Where he’ll end up depends on a lot of factors but you can bank on it being one of Europe’s top five leagues and it’s hard to imagine him not going to a very strong side.

Tottenham are well stocked for wingers but have had success in the Dutch market previously whilst rumours of Erik Lamela moving on might free up space. Equally, Jadon Sancho is expected to leave Borussia Dortmund at some point in the next 12 months and the German club could do a lot worse than signing Neres to replace him. Then what do you have? Could United see him as an alternative should a move for Sancho not come to fruition? Barcelona are in need of an overhaul and a certain Mr de Jong will give a glowing review of Neres’ ability.

The truth is, we don’t know. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the market. Whatever happens though will push Neres into a PB league. That’s good news.

How does he play the game?

If you’ve read this far, you’ll be well aware that Neres measures up well on the goals and assists front but let’s take a deeper look at his style of play.

For starters, he’s decent when passing the ball as evidenced by his completion rate of 83.9%. Of those passes, he manages 1.4 key passes per 90 minutes along with 2.3 successful dribbles.

Finally, there is his desire to have an impact on the opponents goal. He fires in two shots per game, most of which come from inside the penalty area. Of course, we’ve already touched on the rate with which he chips in on the goals and assists front. For clarity, since joining Ajax he’s been directly involved in a goal every 116 minutes.

Closing thoughts

Of course, playing in Holland means that Neres has limited opportunity to scoop PB wins but he has still managed a top forward win. It came for his role in Ajax’s quarter final first leg draw with Juventus last April. A move to a top five league will likely see him win a few more divs.

His current price of £1.71 looks a steal. He was valued at £1.93 in mid-February. A return to that price when the season gets into full swing will give you a 12.9% return. Throw a transfer on top of that and you’ll be laughing.

So, David Neres, is he worth a few quid of your money?

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