Football

Neymar can become Barcelona's key man

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The 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner will be crowned in a lavish ceremony in Zurich in January.

Despite the questionable tactical voting and a short list including Arsenal's reserve goalkeeper David Ospina and QPR midfielder Massimo Luongo, the award for player of the year is one of football's off-the-field highlights.

This year will likely be another shootout between Barcelona's wizard Lionel Messi and current title-holder Cristiano Ronaldo, who's looking for his third consecutive win.

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If Ronaldo triumphs, it'll bring Real Madrid's record goal scorer level with the Argentine on three successes since the award started in its current format in 2010.

Stepping up

However, there's a new name that's likely to upset the apple cart sooner rather than later.

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Neymar may already be Brazil's golden boy and one third of Barcelona's lethal forward line alongside Messi and Luis Suarez, but the 23-year-old has largely been in the shadow of his club side's number 10.

When Messi suffered knee ligament damage in a 2-1 win over Las Palmas in late September, Luis Enrique's side needed someone to fill the void of goals, assist and creativity seemingly guaranteed by the Argentine.

Up stepped Neymar.

Since October, and with no sign of his trademark golden locks, the Brazilian has scored an impressive 11 goals in eight games as well as providing seven assists.

That's helped the Catalan club to the summit of La Liga and within touching distance of the knock out stages of the Champions League.

Neymar, who has occasionally been criticised for his lack of end product since moving to Europe in 2013, has not only sent a firm message to his critics but also become instrumental to Barcelona's style of play in the absence of Messi.

Effective

During the weekend's El Clasico, Neymar was sought out by Jordi Alba 27 times - that was the game's most popular pass combination and helped the former Santos forward to score and set up Andres Iniesta in Barca's 4-0 demolition of Madrid. He was also the most fouled player.

Enrique's confidence in his forward, in Spanish football's highest-profile stage, and in front of an estimated 400 million viewers worldwide, suggests that Neymar's performances are becoming more reliable - especially considering the 45-year-old coach could have opted to use the returning Messi from the off.

Neymar's role will undoubtedly change with Messi back in the fold, but the added confidence of his manager and fans alike could provide the perfect catalyst for the Brazilian to become the world's best player.

The biggest stumbling block may be that the main competition for that title in the coming years comes from a team mate and club legend.

How long will it be before Neymar knocks Messi off his perch as Barcelona's key man? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!

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Topics:
Barcelona
Lionel Messi
Neymar
Football

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