The long-discussed debate over whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is better has been replaced by a new player-rivalry.
This rivalry was created when, in the summer of 2013, Neymar made his long-awaited transfer to Barcelona. This was closely followed by Gareth Bale's record breaking transfer to arch-rivals Real Madrid after months of negotiation.
Suddenly it was not Messi vs Ronaldo anymore, but rather a debate about which of these multi-million transfers would pay off in the end or which duo could take Europe by storm in the coming season. In a way, Neymar vs Bale is a carbon copy of Messi vs Ronaldo.
Messi and Neymar are comfortable with the ball at their feet and will keep hold of possession, draw defenders in and then either take it past them with exquisite close control or play a through ball which leaves the defence gawping.
Bale, like Ronaldo, focuses more on pace, power and strength. They do not dawdle but rather try to break as quickly as possible hoping to catch the opposition unawares.
The question is not whether Bale or Neymar is a better footballer, but who has proven to be a bigger success at their new clubs and which of the two new superstars has made a greater impact.
Neymar had the more fortunate start experiencing pre-season with his new teammates and having no injuries to his name. Bale has been struggling with injuries and moved a lot later too, due to Daniel Levy's reluctance to sell his main man.
Neymar took a while to feel comfortable in Catalonia, but now boasts decent stats with five goals and seven assists in 14 games in La Liga, the Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup. Even though this does not seem a bad tally, many have been disappointed with his effectiveness in front of goal.
This may have something to do with proving how clinical he can be with 41 goals in 48 games for Santos and Brazil in the previous year and the fact that in the league only four of his 29 shots hit the back of the net.
The big question with Neymar's transfer was whether he could adapt to the Spanish league after shining in Brazil. People were unsure whether he could adapt to the larger intensity and step up to the plate in a more difficult league. He has impressively managed to adapt his game slightly to fit the needs of Barcelona. He has become less selfish and is more willing to pass on the responsibility to a team-mate rather than do everything alone. He seems
to embrace the Barcelona-style quick passing and possession football and has bought into the idea of closing down quickly to put the opponents under pressure.
In Barcelona, Neymar is not the main man. This is an unusual feeling for the attacker because of his team-mates reliance on him at Santos and also in the national team. The general consensus is that Neymar is slowly coming into his own in La Liga and should keep improving more and more in the coming months. One thing he needs to do to make sure he is fully appreciated in his first season in Europe is finish the year with a decent goal tally. He can not let that aspect of his game go downhill - especially with Messi injured for the next two months and the goal scoring mantel needing to be taken over for that time.
38 minutes into his debut, Gareth Bale was already on the scoresheet, putting the ball in the back of the net against Villarreal. However, after the first few games of the season, where he only got limited playing time, a recurring injury from pre-season sidelined him for a few weeks.
Ancelotti was careful with his new prized possession and eased him back into action slowly. Bale thanked him for his consideration with some thrilling performances in the following games. The end of October and beginning of November were great for the Welshman.
After a lacklustre performance in El Classico, he responded to his critics with two goals and two assists against Sevilla a few days later. November saw two great performances from Bale with two more assists against Rayo Vallecano and a well taken goal against Juventus. He
finally seemed to be finding his feet in Madrid and the previously suspected animosity between Bale and Ronaldo has proven to be nonsense. If anything, the arrival of Bale has spurned Ronaldo on to become even better.
There are similarities in the two transfers to Spain's top clubs. Neymar and Bale both had to adjust to not being the main men in the team anymore. They also had to adapt their game in order to be less selfish and develop more trust in their teammates. This is obviously easier when your team mates are of the quality of Xavi, Iniesta, Modric and Alonso but it could have been as easy for either of these players to be selfish in order to make an impression.
In terms of who has made the greater impression, it has got to be Neymar. Simply because he has had more time to put in good performances and create opportunities. The best thing that has happened for him is his goal against Real Madrid in a match where Bale disappointed. This elevated his status hugely and meant he was celebrated massively in Barcelona.
But the question is who has had the greater impact - a goal against Real Madrid does not secure this for Neymar. Bale has had a very limited time to make an impression and most games that he has played he has managed to grab by the scruff of the neck. His performances in the last month have been amazing and it is obvious that his game fits that of Real.
Both players have major price-tags to justify and seem to be on the right way to doing this. It is all about consistency and continuous improvement and both these professionals know that.
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