At around this time last year, Barcelona were winning an El Clasico match-up that had Neymar stamped all over it.
The opening goal, assist to Alexis Sanchez for the winner, and general play saw the Brazilian overshadow the world's most expensive player Gareth Bale, who was well off of the pace in comparison. Over the next months the roles were reversed as everything the Welshman touched turned to gold, whilst Neymar struggled to really find any sort of consistency.
When Bale had a hand in finally bringing "La Decima" back to the Santiago Bernabeu after 12 years of trying, the comparisons between the new boys ended. First season won hands down by Bale. Fast forward 12 months and there is a very real sense that Neymar has now fully settled into his club surroundings and out-performing his counterpart.
Continuing his good form before injury at the World Cup, the wonderkind has looked sharp, alert and dangerous, and Luis Enrique appears to have instilled just the right sense of urgency into Neymar's team play. Where last season the player rarely strayed from the comfort of the sideline, preferring to wait for the ball, now a move inside to receive a pass or direct running to the heart of the defence has become Neymar's signature.
Fluidity in attack
It's allowed a fluidity to the front three that was missing last year, when each time the ball found Neymar, inevitably Barca's attacks became staccato. Seven goals already is a fine return, compared to nine he scored in the entirety of last season per FCBarcelona.com. It's a good indicator of just how far the Brazilians game has improved.
Bale has been a little less prolific for Los Blancos and some might even suggest he's gone off of the boil. Yet his figures via WhoScored of four goals and three assists are more than acceptable with just seven games of the season played.
Bale's figures the best
His pass accuracy of 80.8 percent is far higher than Neymar's at 74.1 percent, and the Welsh wing wizard has already played almost double the amount of time - in terms of minutes on the pitch - than his Blaugrana contemporary. Arguably therefore, even though Bale's season has perhaps been a little more "under the radar" thus far, he is still more than proving his worth in Madrid and, it's fair to say, outdoing Neymar once again.
The old adage "it's a marathon, not a sprint" certainly applies and the best time to judge who has provided the best supporting act to Messrs. Ronaldo and Messi again will be in six months time.
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