Over the course of many years, we, all of us, have watched a dazzling array of footballers come to Celtic Park and strut their stuff. Celtic fans have travelled to every major ground, to watch every major club, in European football down through the years.
Celtic fans have always given their due respect to opposing players, and the better the footballer the more the respect.
Celtic fans love to watch fantastic talent, and when it comes to playing the best in Europe we can look through the occasional night of horror and honestly admire and respect what is right in front of our eyes.
It has been one of the great privileges of my life to have seen us against the likes of Ronaldinho, Del Piero, Kaka, Suarez and Messi, Messi, Messi … how many times have we watched the genius, the greatest, the best footballer of all time against our boys? A dozen now?
The appreciation for it never flags, not for one moment.
And then there is Neymar.
He is the one truly great global footballer I cannot bring myself to like.
About how he left Barcelona because he wanted to be the centre of attention, and he knew he’d never get there whilst playing in the same team as the Argentine.
He moved instead to Paris St Germain, believing, no doubt, that it was a lesser environment.
But he found out almost at once that Edinson Cavani considered that club his own personal fiefdom and that the fans agreed.
Worse for Neymar, in the same window the club signed European football’s most exciting prospect in years, Kylian Mbappé, who is not only French and therefore was already a national hero but is a Parisian to boot.
Neymar was overshadowed once again, and he continues to be.
Now, with the realisation finally set in that he will never be the main man in Paris he is looking for a move again. In this desire to be centre stage is everything that is wrong with this guy, and the reason that Celtic fans cannot stand him, no matter what genuine magic he possess in his feet.
We’ve seen Neymar almost as many times as we’ve seen Messi, and in every one of those games there was diving, snarling, snapping, cheating … in the latter games, against PSG, it was Mbappe who utterly destroyed us, and yet I don’t know a single fan who wasn’t thrilled to have watched his incredible talent, and only regretted that it had been unleashed against us.
We will never feel that way about Neymar, not as long as he continues to be one of football’s spoiled children, forever drawing attention to the negative parts of his game. Most Celtic fans I know cannot even say his name without the enhancement of an expletive.
Few players in the world can provoke that kind of reaction from us.
Neymar is a phenomenal footballer; that’s what’s wrong with this picture.
We should all be able to admire him for the talent he most certainly does possess.
But it’s all the rest of it, all that stuff that we can’t abide, that stuff that saw him leave Barcelona in the huff, on the brink of being regarded as one of the greatest of all time, and which has caused PSG to regret that they ever thought he could play as part of a team instead of just playing for himself.
Celtic fans don’t like that in a footballer either.