There’s a high premium placed on loyalty in football these days, considering that it is a trait seemingly becoming more and more rare with each passing day.
For a fair few years, Neto was the subject of debate around Florence. The Brazilian was talented but flawed, committed yet error prone. Was he Sebastien Frey’s true successor?
Fiorentina, for their part, eventually proved they believed so. The Viola stuck with him through growing pains, and the 25-year-old came good in due time.
The time came to award Neto for his rise. Only in his mind, it came too late. With his contract expiring, the Brazilian spurned a contract extension in January.
As could be expected, his decision to pass up extending his tenure at the Stadio Artemio Franchi brought about a furious reaction from the Fiorentina hierarchy.
With no future for the imminent departee in Tuscany, he was indefinitely consigned to the bench, Ciprian Tatarusanu taking over the number one spot with immediate effect.
The Romanian made the spot his, taking just a few weeks to settle in. But no sooner had Tatarusanu demonstrated his aptitude in Neto’s stead, than he went down with injury.
Without another goalkeeper eligible to play in the Europa League this side of Primavera shot stopper Luca Lezzerini, Neto stepped back into the spotlight.
The Brazilian returned to his former place between the sticks as the Viola sent Tottenham packing from Europe last Thursday, and was seemingly only getting started.
It was the right choice, galling as it may have been for Montella. Neto made five saves, including a crucial flying stop on Rodrigo Palacio with the Viola down to nine men due to injuries late on.
His efforts were vital considering Fiorentina were able to escape San Siro with a narrow 1-0 victory that sees them just three points out in the race for Champions League football.
La Gazzetta dello Sport has praised Neto for keeping his composure in a difficult situation, putting in a top-drawer performance underlining his professionalism.
Tuttomercatoweb was also full of praise for the Brazilian, whom the online portal said ‘transformed into Superman’ with his late save on Palacio’s header.
No matter his current heroics, however, Neto will surely be on his way come summer, having seemingly already made the decision to leave. He reiterated this in speaking to Globoesporte on Sunday.
Liverpool were one of the clubs heavily linked with Neto in January as he chose not to renew with Fiorentina, though ultimately they didn’t make a move at the time.
Simon Mignolet has returned to form in spectacular fashion of late at Anfield, though it may be the case that Brendan Rodgers wants to bring in quality competition for the Belgian.
No matter what Fiorentina may think of Neto’s refusal to renew at this point, his performance at the weekend showed a player who remains focussed, professional and able to be decisive from a results standpoint.
That would be something useful for Liverpool to have in reserve next term, and the Brazilian’s exploits against Inter should serve to make the Reds sit up and take notice.