Barcelona v Santos: Match Preview


Barcelona v Santos; FIFA Club World Cup; Yokohama International Stadium; 18th December; 1930 (local time)

The World Club Cup has thrown up the final that everybody both expected and wanted: Barcelona v Santos.

This clash sees the current undisputed best player on the planet, Lionel Messi, go up against the heir to the throne in Neymar who has been compared to Pele in some quarters.

Whilst many young Brazilians are compared to the great man, especially if they are brought up at Santos, Neymar genuinely does look like something incredible.

His coach, Muricy Ramalho said: "Before long he'll be the best in the world. He and Messi are similar but Neymar is more special.

"His style alternates the direction of the ball as he carries it, while Messi dribbles more in a straight line. Neymar is unpredictable. You don't find anyone in the world who does what he can do with the ball."

As if to prove his coach's point, the mohawked teenager scored an exceptional goal in the semi-final against Kashiwa Reysol where Santos won 3-1, persuading the ball into the top corner after making a fool of an on-rushing defender.

He has also committed to stay at Santos until 2014, a change to how many outstanding South American talents find themselves in Europe by the time they are 18, much like Messi did and is picking up a wage that he may not even attract at a club like Real Madrid or Chelsea, such as his status in his homeland as the poster boy for the next World Cup.

Messi though, has played in one of the top European leagues for all of his career and has scored 82 goals in his last 84 La Liga games, a record that means it is impossible not to call him the world's premier footballer.

He is on course to break all of Barcelona's scoring milestones with years to spare and it is his attitude as well as his talent that has endeared him to everyone outside the Camp Nou in the footballing community and he helped the Catalan giants stroll through semi-final opponents Al-Sadd 4-0.

Whilst there will be other players on the pitch in the final, and there is a genuinely prestigious trophy available for the winner, most onlookers will be watching to see if Neymar can upstage Messi and prove that he is the real deal.

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