Neymar guaranteed he would improve Barcelona’s front next season, and insisted he would help Lionel Messi remain the best player in the world.

Messi has been enjoying the title of best footballer on the planet for four consecutive seasons. But in a year that has already proven to be a difficult one for him, there are uncertainties upon the retention of his crown.

It is unclear whether he will stay a hot favourite by the end of this year for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award, but a perfect spell with Barcelona at the start of next season will very likely place him inches away from the honour.

Yet, in order for Messi to keep his wonderful form for Barcelona next season, he will need to find a new, perfect match on the field, who appears to be Neymar. 

Despite all the fame and wealth the Brazilian 21-year-old benefits from, he is still a fervent fan of the No.10 playmaker. As a result of his passion for the club he recently signed for, Neymar could ultimately develop himself to become the “next Ronaldinho” at Barcelona, if not greater.

With the left wing looking free next season for Neymar to control, a 4-3-3 formation could see the Barca midfield explore the flanks better during attacks, so as to give Messi more space in the middle – where he usually dwells.

But as it is often said, good things come to an end, and this is exactly the saying that could resound in the fans’ head towards the end of next season, if ever manager Tito Vilanova again fails to orchestrate his team’s front movements well. Looking at the past is necessary to justify this plain fact.

Although the performances of former huge signings Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa at Barcelona are generally considered as disappointing overall, there was still some times when they seemed to be in good form at the Spanish mega club.

Whenever they appeared to shine, it was because they played without pressure and with full freedom on the pitch. But surely, the acquisition of these three players – who had previously proven themselves in the central attacking position – was not a wise decision by the club.

Lionel Messi began evolving as a goalscorer after Pep Guardiola’s appointment in 2008. His rapid development was not only due to hard work and talent, but also to the fact that he was allowed to have a free role in the middle, where his senses are more effectual.

Unfortunately, and without doubt, Messi’s playing position in the middle happened to be the source of the dissatisfaction suffered by Henry, Ibrahimovic and Villa – who were actually all brought in Barcelona to strengthen the attack and help La Pulga. Evidently, they did help Messi discover himself better, but that was at the expense of their own game.

Now – subsequent to Henry and Ibrahimovic’s departure, and with Villa close to an exit – Barca have brought another helper for Messi; but, this time, in the form of a winger.

Logically, there should not be any conflict in playing positions this time around. But then again, fresh signing Neymar has showed that he is not only equipped to provide crosses and passes, but also to score goals.

The youngster and corner-taker – who scored 32 goals in 34 Paulista A1 appearances for former side Santos in the 2012 and 2013 – is an expert in one-on-one chances, solo efforts and free-kicks as well.

These are areas Messi has also learnt to master overtime. Intriguingly, it will be up to Tito Vilanova to intelligently share the roles among them in order to form an efficient combination, and not two separate conflicting forces.

Neymar might have vowed to remain humble and useful to Barcelona, but Spanish local football is not too different from Brazilian local football, when it comes to tempo and intensity. Thus, it may not take long for the Nike icon to find comfort to exhibit his selfish, yet entertaining, and teasing moves.

As soon as he learns to find the net as frequently as he did back in his homeland, a disobedient Neymar – receiver of five red cards in four years at Santos – might want to reach greater heights by achieving as much as he can on the field. 

Without the direction of a strong coaching staff at the club – Barca fans could in the end find themselves witnessing a conflict of performances in their team’s attack.

So what would be the solution to such an anticipated dilemma? Would it be to force Neymar to not be selfish again and submit to the rule above him, which is to help Messi remain the master of the team?

Definitely not. Putting restrictions on Neymar would be interfering with the growth of a player who is clearly very adventurous. At the same time, letting him explore many areas of the field on a free role quickly could prompt his lack of maturity to spoil the team’s plans upfront.

A bit like Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar is an athletic winger who can assume various responsibilities, aside the ones that are attached to his original position. He should be playing for the whole team and the fans, and not for one particular player only.

If Neymar’s talent is as big as many fellow footballers believe it is, then his good influence will propel itself automatically in Barcelona and therefore help Messi himself unload the weight on his shoulders – all naturally.


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