Here is one of the most talented young players in world football, joining the best team of recent years. He follows in the footsteps of the greatest Brazilians of recent years – Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Romario and Rivaldo – in joining Barcelona to wear their famous blaugrana jersey.
So how will the former Santos man cope and fit into the new system? Indications are that he is willing to adapt and accept his place – no longer is he the big fish in the pond, but he will have to recognise that he comes second to Leo Messi, the world’s best player, as well as Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Nonetheless Neymar’s arrival is meant to help Barcelona step up a level again. Last year they seemed to lose something that made them so brilliant beforehand. That mesmeric short passing play that has made Barcelona the dominant team of their generation appeared to have been lost to some extent in the post Pep Guardiola days, not helped by the illness to Tito Vilanova.
Neymar now has to adapt though to the system that Barcelona use. They play a clear and coherent style of football – with short passing interchanges, finding space and offering options before looking for others with the ball. Barcelona is a tough school to come through. Neymar will have to get used to a style of play that has caused problems for some of their big signings of recent years, such as Alexis Sanchez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Brazilian should be capable – his technical skills are excellent but he needs to become more of a team player. He showed signs of doing that at the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil but he retains an individualist streak. And that can help in terms of taking the burden of goals off Messi to some extent. The proportion of goals Barcelona score that Messi converts himself has grown worryingly in recent years, and there is a concern that the club are becoming too dependent on the world’s greatest player.
Neymar will probably be starting on the left of Barcelona’s front three, cutting in to join up with Messi, with Pedro doing the same from wide right. His arrival will mean there is less onus on Iniesta to make a breakthrough by himself, as he plays a bit deeper alongside Xavi and ahead of Sergio Busquets.
There is no doubt that this talented Brazilian has the ability to fit in and be a success at the Nou Camp. His prodigious skill and virtuoso flair means he can add something extra. And in that he is different from Messi. For all the Argentine’s genius, he is not a show pony, a player given to trying and performing tricks and flicks. He is a player whose quick feet and dribbling ability mean he can create chances on his own but he is not flashy in doing so. Neymar is flashy – and is brought up of course in a country where flair, imagination and tricks are encouraged. That is what promises to make this a perfect match, if Neymar can fit in and adapt to Barcelona – he and Messi can be an incredible pairing in the years ahead.