Football

Has Neymar made a mistake signing for Barcelona?

Neymar will join Barcelona this summer (©GettyImages)
Neymar will join Barcelona this summer (©GettyImages).

With news of Neymar’s arrival at Barcelona next season, it is worth asking if it is a great or a risky move for the talented young Brazilian. 

Neymar, who has scored over 130 goals in just over 220 games for Santos, has been the centre point of his club since bursting onto the scene in 2009.

Last season he enjoyed his best year, scoring 43 goals in just 47 games, approaching the kind of scintillating form that both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have enjoyed in recent years.

So often for Santos, Neymar will drift into space to receive the ball, before dribbling through defences as his team-mates play the role of distractors with their runs, or the giver in a one-two. However the game is set up, he is given the ball to make something happen, and he so often does.

Whether Neymar will be able to exhort this kind of influence on a team of consummate winners is the intriguing question. Neymar’s position at Barca is likely to begin on one of the wings, unless he takes the position of the “false forward” that Barcelona had experimented with while David Villa was injured.

Messi is the undisputed jewel in the Barca crown, and it may be a case of Neymar having to learn a disciplined role in a way he may well find challenging, while he accommodates to the role of second fiddle.

Barcelona have previously signed outrageously talented individuals who were the stars at their club: Alexis Sanchez, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas all moved to the Catalan club for big money and with big reputations.

Arguably none of them have found a part in a Barca starting eleven when Messi is playing. Each have had the occasional great game, or deputised brilliantly when Messi is moved elsewhere in the team or not playing, but they have not made a position their own in the team in the way that Andres Iniesta, Xavi, or even Pedro have done. 

Many will argue that Neymar is undoubtedly a different player to anyone else Barcelona have signed, and the most exciting acquisition since they brought Ronaldinho to the club in 2003.

Like Neymar, Ronaldinho arrived with the potential to become the best player in the world, and went on to fulfill that in the blue and red of Barca.

Ronaldinho seized the role of the team’s maestro, and had many successful years in Spain.

However, unlike Neymar, Ronaldinho had already spent two years in the tougher-than-Brazil-but-easier-than-Spain French league with PSG, where he acclimatised to the higher standards of European defending and football in general.

It took Ronaldinho those two years to be ready to be a great player at a great European side, and when the time came he took it with both hands, in a Barcelona team bereft of the genius he, Messi or Neymar possess.

Neymar will have it much harder; he will have to settle within his first season to avoid being labeled a disappointment, and may well have to understand that he has arguably the best footballer of all time playing in his favoured position.

In a perfect world, signing for a club like Valencia or Atletico Madrid would have been the ideal stepping stone into European football for Neymar, being a couple of levels below the spotlight afforded to Barcelona. But his star has already risen so very high, that only one of the greatest and richest clubs in the world could afford him.

Only time will tell how long it takes for him to find a role in Barca’s team, as well as the effect such a move may have on the way Barcelona will play football. But despite these reservations, there is no denying that he is one of the most gifted footballers on the planet - and given this prodigious talent, maybe it wouldn’t really surprise any of us if he made the transition with ease.

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