In Neymar, Barça got the ideal substitute for Messi

Posted on May 27, 2013 10:21 am

Finally, the soap-opera seems to have come to an end. Yesterday, in the early morning, Barcelona announced that the Neymar transfer had gone through and that the player had signed a contract with the Catalan club for the next five years. The amount of the transfer has not yet been revealed, but it should be around 50 million euros. After almost two years of negotiations, and beyond the economic aspect which is debatable, on the pitch, the deal seems perfect. The player fulfills his dream of playing in a big European side and the club gets the only player who can replace Lionel Messi.

This is not to say that Neymar is in the same level as Argentine star and will take his starting job. Not at all. Despite completely dominating the Brazilian league, the young striker has definitely struggled when he had to face top-class rivals and will take a while to adapt to the demands of European football.

But, at only 21 years-old, no one will ask him to become the team’s saviour. Neymar’s job, at least at first, will be to become Leo’s shadow. Considering his technical abilities and potential, he’s the only one capable of mimicking what the Golden Ball winner does on the pitch: dribble around rivals, drag the ball forward, finish inside the box and decide games with touches of genius.

It has become commonplace that Messi wants to play every minute of every game. And it’s probably true, but it is also true that, so far, Barcelona also needed him to be there all the time because they have never had player who could imitate what the Argentine does on the pitch. With all their talent, neither Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc share the same characteristics and, therefore, when Leo is not on the pitch, the team looks completely different… and worse.

Last season it was clear that, however strong the best player in the world is, he’s human and needs rest, and Neymar will be able to provide just that. If the Brazilian had been on the squad this season, he could have played the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain and the crucial league clash against Athletic. So, Messi could have fully recovered from his injury and be at 100% against Bayern Munich. And then, perhaps, it would have been Carles Puyol who lifted the world most precious trophy in Wembley last Saturday.

It was not the case and both Barcelona players and their fans had to settle for watching on TV how Lahm, Mandzukic, Robben and company celebrated in the world’s most famous arena under a shower of confetti. But with Neymar on the team, the story doesn’t have to repeat itself. Now Messi can stay on the bench in Copa games and leave the pitch when the score is settled in la Liga and Champions League matches. He may not like at first but, Tito Vilanova, or whoever the new coach is, must convince him that the best for him is to be 100% in the games that really matter and to also stay healthy for many years.

Therefore, the signing of Brazilian star was absolutely essential for Barça. What follows is to let him adapt at his own pace and not place him under the spotlight immediately, however intense the pressure from the media becomes. He must be able to learn from the best and get used to the pace of European football so he can repeat the fantastic moves he showed every week in the Brasileirao. If they give him time, he will become the perfect substitute for Messi in the beginning and, in the near future, in the ideal companion for the world’s best player.

About Martin del Palacio

My name is Martín del Palacio Langer, I live in Barcelona and I'm a freelance contributor to FIFA.com, World Soccer magazine, Kicker, MedioTiempo.com, PasionSports and some other publications around the world. I love the tactical and statistical side of football but understand that passion is the most important ingredient in the game. Hope you enjoy this blog and feel free to contact me in the comments section or in www.twitter.com/martindelpENG (for English) and www.twitter.com/martindelp (for Spanish)
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