Neymar will be the difference in Copa del Rey return

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One of the first contributions Neymar made in a Barcelona shirt was a header at the Vicente Calderon to eventually win the Spanish Supercup for Barca in an otherwise trophy-less season.

Much of the rest of that campaign was spent honing his craft in a new environment and a much tougher league to that which he had been used to in Brazil.

It was certainly the perfect way to announce you to your new employers and supporters but a drop of in intensity and a stop-start tenure might well have been expected. Fast forward a year and what a wholly different proposition Neymar is now.

No more showboating

Already with more goals than in the entirety of last season, it's not just on the scoresheet where he has excelled. Gone is the incessant showboating which marked, or should that be marred, his game in the Brasileiro. 

Gone too is the need to beat all and sundry before scoring a "golazo" each and every time. We are bearing witness to a new, improved Neymar, a player that very definitely deserves his place at the top table of European football at present.

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Confident, dangerous

Last season we saw a lost youngster who would hug the touchline and when he did decide to come inside, invariably his runs would be immediately halted by the opposition or he would tangle with team-mates, seemingly uncertain of the lines he should be traversing.

This season, a more confident individual is bearing down on the defence at every given opportunity. He's sharp, confident and dangerous.

Moreover, his relationship with Messi and now Suarez is blossoming, with all three on the scoresheet in games recently.

That header aside, against Atleti last season Neymar was fairly anonymous. His opposite numbers were far too strong and the feigning of injury, the crying out in pain were merely a deviation to take focus away from the fact that, at that point, the Brazilian simply wasn't good enough.

Deserves his place

A reported €86 million price tag and the associate fall-out from the same probably didn't help his mindset and his first 12 months were frankly a disappointment. Putting his World Cup disaster to one side, Neymar came back fresh and hit the ground running, and he simply hasn't stopped.

His work-rate is as good as any in the side, and there is absolutely no doubt he deserves his spot on current form. Juanfran will have his work cut out to keep him quiet again. Don't bet against another far post header to win the tie either.

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