Neymar at Barcelona – The early days

Blog by: Aditya


Neymar: Impact neutralised?

If you are a player who has cost his club £58 million, or thereabouts to make no difference, you would definitely want to make an immediate impact. And that is exactly what Barça new-boy Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, or Neymar in short, would want to do.

It’s been a month and 11 days since the start of the new season in Spain, and sufficient time has elapsed to pass judgement on the new signing.

Right from the outset, the question on everyone’s lips was, “How would Messi and Neymar play together?” And this is an important question, since much of what would make this a good signing depends on how the new “wonder-boy” gels with the established talisman.

Ever since his rise to the top, Barcelona’s play has revolved around Messi. He has been the conduit for their play, and also the provider of the end-product more often than not. Neymar’s introduction into the equation makes it much more interesting.

After all, it is not the first time that a new player of high repute has joined Barcelona with Messi already playing. Remember a certain Zlatan Ibrahimović?

When Ibra moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2009, the world watched with baited breath as to what the combination of Zlatan and Messi would bring; after all, these are two world-class players, who are capable of turning a match onto its head by themselves.

Logic dictated that a team with both these players should be unstoppable. Alas, football rarely follows any laws except the arbitrary ones that it defines. A combination that promised so much at the outset ended in open-acrimony, as Zlatan left the club after just two seasons, one of which he spent on loan at AC Milan, the club he eventually joined.

A look at Ibra’s time at Barça reveals a hint of what went wrong. Zlatan’s main reason for becoming disenchanted with life at the Camp Nou seems to be that his Barça teammates seemed to have eyes only for Messi. One feels that Zlatan’s infamous ego and narcissistic personality could not handle the perceived gap in value existing between the two players. He left on bitter terms, and has openly maintained a less-than-friendly disposition towards the then Barça manager Pep Guardiola.

FC Barcelona v Ajax Amsterdam - UEFA Champions League

Neymar will need to establish himself the hard way

In the current state of affairs, such a scenario seems inconceivable, given the fact that Neymar does not seem to have an ego to match that of Ibra. Neymar himself has come out to state that Messi is the hub of Barça, and that he, Neymar, would want to learn from from Messi.

Neymar has been largely used as a substitute thus far, and Barça’s quality that they can more than afford to do this. In his start against Rayo Vallecano, he was largely influential and the best player on the night. He was also one of the few shining lights for Barça against Málaga, in a match in which they struggled to break down an obstinate Málaga and had to survive a few second-half scares. On Neymar’s regular absence from the starting line-up, Barcelona manager Tata Martino had this to say:

“The press judge how he has adapted by asking whether he has scored goals or not, but he does a fantastic job in creating chances and recovering the ball.”

“He has adapted very quickly and I’m very happy with what he has done so far.”

“Don’t forget that he had a long summer with the Confederations Cup, his hectic transfer to the club and the long trips he has had to make which have prevented him from training properly. We are very satisfied with everything he has offered us.”

Martino has also been quoted as saying “toughen up” to Neymar. His simple message has been directed at Neymar’s slender frame, which leaves much to be desired on the physical front. But, another more illustrious personality has warned Barcelona not to turn Neymar “into bodybuilder”. On Neymar, Maradona had this to say:

“Neymar delights me. He is a player that should be noted.”

“He knows what to do with himself and that he does not need to be a bodybuilder. I hope they (Barcelona) don’t do that with him. He just has to play football.”

Neymar would have wanted to make more of an impact at Barcelona by now, but Martino’s tactics have also contributed to damping his impact on the team. Martino’s tactics have been criticised by sections of the fans, and a feeling of alarm passed among the supporters as Barcelona had a lower share of possession against minnows Rayo Vallecano.

Playing out on the left for the Spanish champions, Neymar has found that he doesn’t have the same freedom of operation that he enjoyed at both Santos and Brazil. He has also not seen as much of the ball as he would’ve liked. Where at Santos and Brazil he was the centre of play, even when he played out wide, he has seen one facet of his play suppressed, namely that of the playmaker.

It remains to be seen if Neymar’s signing blossoms into a success as Barcelona hope, or if we see another failed “golden combination’. Still, these are early days.


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