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Tite’s Captaincy Bungle With Neymar Increases Negative Headlines Ahead of Crunch Copa

The CBF announced that Dani Alves would captain Brazil at Copa America, with Neymar relieved of the armband less than a year after he was awarded it on a full-time basis. Previously, with an essay service of superb quality, Tite rotated the armband in order to build a sense of shared leadership and it was a policy that worked well- particularly for experienced fringe players like Filipe Luis and Fernandinho to feel important, even if they were not automatic starters.

The decision to award Ney the captaincy full-time always felt strange. He is not much of a leader, which is fine, most people aren’t leaders. But the decision seemed to hark back to the ‘Neymar-dependencia’ suffered by Tite’s predecessor Dunga.

Neymar has plenty of scrutiny and attention and, frankly, he has enough on his plate as a player. Often Neymar’s brilliance can be subdued by his tendency to operate as an individual. When Tite first took the Brazil job, he relieved Neymar of the captaincy with the player’s blessing and he was able to persuade Neymar to ‘fall in line’ as a team player.

But during the World Cup, the player fell back into bad habits and was guilty of trying to win games single handedly. Perhaps Tite gave him the captaincy to reign him back in, to remind him of the wider importance of the team, but that always felt fanciful. The decision seemed to simply serve to increase the scrutiny of a player with a significant workload who operates under an intense spotlight as it is.

Tite’s decision to go back on this call and give the armband to Alves is an admission that his ploy failed and now there is even more negative press around the player going into the Copa America on home soil. Giving the captaincy to 36 year old Alves also means that the issue becomes live again very soon- this is no long-term appointment.

Maybe Neymar will resume the role again after the tournament but it feels like Tite has made this a bigger issue than necessary. There are already whispers that the manager is losing his touch and the optimism of his early reign is withering under the lights. Bungling what should not have been a significant issue suggests that Tite is beginning to feel the pressure of expectation at the copa. 

That the tournament is on home soil is also significant. The Copa won’t have a lot of global attention and ordinarily it isn’t taken very seriously. But Tite is under pressure to win it and with the Copa taking place in Brazil, an expectant home crowd will pin their hopes on Neymar as the Seleção look to end their 12 year trophy drought.

By picking such an experienced squad, the coach has opted for a must win now team and they will operate under that pressure. Removing the captaincy from Neymar creates doubt and negative headlines at a time when Tite and Brazil could really do without them.


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