How Will Neymar Impact Barcelona?


Just how good will Neymar be in his first season at Barcelona? Today on the blog Chalkontheboots shares his thoughts on Neymar's potential impact at Barcelona in 2013/2014.


Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. - Plato

Pick any subject in football today for football fans to discuss and you’ll gather a collection of differing views. Even when the prizes are handed out, you’ll still witness a plethora of opinions. Are Man Utd really the best team in England ? Should Ronaldo not be recognised as the best player in the world?

Fans are quick to offer opinions without adequate justification for that view which they espouse. Too quick. And what constitutes opinion is often presented as fact when it is baseless. There is never a lull in proceedings. Some player or team is always the centre of such a debate. Right now, that player is most probably Neymar.

Is there any player in world football today who diverges opinion as much as Neymar? The Brazilian must be the King of Divergence. The previous incumbent of this crown was surely Zlatan Ibrahamovic. The Swede was always criticised for not performing in big games yet he had won nine consecutive league titles at different clubs.

Now the focus has shifted to the young Brazilian. His lacklustre performances against England in two friendlies provided the weight for the criticism. Evidence for him being tarnished as overrated. A rush to judge him based upon two, admittedly, average performances. The criticism only intensified in some quarters when he made the move away from his homeland and joined Barcelona.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior

After a period of seemingly endless transfer speculation with a host of elite European clubs supposedly in the frame for his signature, Neymar finally completed his move from Santos to Barcelona for £48.6m (57m euros) on 3 June.

"Money is OK but happiness takes priority. We decided to come to Barcelona . I had a lot of offers but I followed my heart”

With his club Santos not being required to sell for financial reasons, it seems that Neymar has made the decision to move himself. The timing maybe a little unusual so far as acclimatising to a new environment in the year preceding the World Cup in Brazil is concerned. Another year at home would have enabled him to enter the World Cup in optimal condition without any of the stresses he will now endure with the move to Spain . Yet staying in Brazil could have presented Neymar with much greater problems instead.

Adaptation Phase?

To leave or not to leave? That was the question for Neymar.

Some critics will contest that Neymar should remain in Brazil to continue developing, that he is not of the requisite physical and mental standard to play a full season at a demanding club such as Barcelona . Perhaps. Or maybe Neymar has actually stunted his development by remaining in Brazil for so long? Maybe Neymar should have exposed himself to a greater footballing challenge earlier in his career rather than become a huge fish in a tiny pond?

Prior to the 2010 World Cup, the then Brazilian coach Dunga described Neymar as "extremely talented", but acknowledged his lack of a suitable test on the international level prevented him from earning a World Cup place. The Brazilian domestic product was not a suitable opponent either. With the languid pace of the Brazilian game and the plentiful space, Neymar can shine. When faced with faster, more physically demanding European opponents, away from the cocoon of his comfort zone, Neymar has struggled to perform at times. Neymar will find he has less time on the ball and is subject to more robust challenges with less protection from referees in Europe . It’s an area that he must adapt to and quickly if he is to shine. He must also learn to curb his enthusiasm for reacting theatrically to challenges such as he did against Uruguay in the semi final of the Confederations Cup. Such behaviour within Europe is likely to be the subject of disciplinary action for simulation.

The technical quality that has captured the admiration of so many clubs is obvious. Neymar possess that rare ability to improvise in a situation allied to his pace, dribbling and passing ability. He has the capacity to both create and score goals. Perhaps adapting tactically to his role within the Barcelona team will be the easier part of the adaptation phase for Neymar. The team is comprised of winners. Fitting in will be easy. Or it would be if Neymar was arriving as the star player. At Barcelona , this is not the case. He will be just one star player amongst a galaxy.

Neymar Total League Goals 2013/2014 Odds

20 or more 2.60 NA
18 or more NA 1.67
14 to 17 NA 3.50
11 to 19 1.75 NA
0 to 13 NA 4.20
0 to 10 6.00 NA

Odds as at 2nd July 2013.

Role at the Camp Nou

Neymar plays mainly either as a forward or as inverted winger on the left, cutting diagonally infield and linking with team-mates. He has commented on his attributes saying:-

"I'm always trying to perfect everything – dribbling, shooting, headers and control. You can always improve”

A product of the Santos Youth Academy, the comparisons with Pele are inevitable even if the former Brazilian star has made the assertion that Neymar is already better than Messi:-

"Now everyone is talking about Messi; he is a star. But [to be the best ever] he must first become better than Neymar"

Yet Neymar is quick to point out that his role at Barcelona will be different. He will not be the central focus. So used to being the fulcrum at both club and international level, Neymar now must adapt to being a big fish within a big pond. He will no longer be the biggest fish. That title will stay with Messi:-

"I've never worried about being the best in the world. The best is already here and that's Messi”

A comment that perhaps displays a changing perspective from the player. A growing maturity as a person and as a player that has been evidenced at the Confederations Cup. The tendency to elaborate, to showboat has been replaced by a more driven, focused and determined attitude. And that’s the most difficult issue dealt with. Right?

In theory yes. Neymar acknowledging his position within the club is important. In practise that remains to be seen however. Potentially, the pairing of Messi and Neymar offers tremendous options in attack with both being capable of creating and scoring but striking that balance will be key.

Can Neymar adapt to possibly seeing less of the ball? Will he learn to pass more often rather than attempt dribbles? Or will Barcelona adapt and lessen their reliance upon Messi for creativity and goals? Can Neymar help share the burden? Will his verticality and directness present Barcelona with an alternative attacking dimension?

He will not play centrally at Barcelona as this is where Messi operates and at the moment he is unlikely to play as a No9 with Messi tucked in behind. Neymar is not a striker who will stay in the one area, he wanders and finds space. That is a concern with the space that Messi, and to a lesser extent Iniesta and Fabregas, use when they play. Can Neymar be that disciplined to not only stay wide left but also track back and defend?

It seems he will play in off the left wing as he does so successfully with Brazil . If he does this though, it could lessen Barcelona ’s fluidity in attack. Just now, if Messi plays centrally and Sanchez and Pedro are wide, both can change sides. Can Neymar offer the same? Can he play in off the right? Will the attack be more static as a consequence of squeezing him in? Firstly, Neymar has to adjust to the style of play that Barcelona use and this could take time. This has been the stumbling block for so many players who have joined the Catalan giants and struggled. His displays at the Confederations Cup have whetted the appetite for him now.

Neymar Total League Assists 2013/2014 Odds

11 or more 1.80
6 to 10 2.15
1 to 5 12.00

Odds as at 2nd July 2013.

Confederations Cup - Now Underrated?

"Nobody knows how good Neymar really is. Not even he knows. He has to demonstrate his quality where world-class football is played -- in Europe . He has to play every day against great players like Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney and all the other top players in Europe . Then we will get an idea of whether or not he is really a star." - Paul Breitner

During his career to date, against opponents at the top level of the game, Neymar had failed to make that difference between the teams. The inability to be the star performer against similarly elite players had led some to question his mental strength and eventually manifested into the claims that he was overrated. And vastly so.

It’s fair to say that the above statement no longer holds true. Any legitimate questions surrounding the ability of Neymar have been quickly dispelled with his recent performances for the Seleção.

Neymar has become his team’s most potent goalscorer and, perhaps worryingly for Brazilians, creator. This Brazil side is developing a strategy that revolves around getting the ball to Neymar as quickly as possible for something to happen. From a position of being underrated, is he in danger of being overrated? Worse, is he becoming a player that is too heavily relied upon?

The statistics from the Confederations Cup highlight just how well he performed. From his five appearances, Neymar scored four goals and provided two assists. From his 16 attempts at goal, eight were on target, an accuracy rate of 50%. Dig deeper and you see a player who averaged 32 passes per game with a success rate of 82%. Neymar can create too and he completed 10 key passes in the competition as a whole, second only to Xavi. This ability to combine creativity with goal scoring prowess saw the front man being targeted by opponents. The 30 fouls he suffered being the most fouls of any player at the tournament.

Neymar doesn’t just wait for something to happen, he makes something happen.

Two moments from the tournament capture this unique combination of skills and his continued development concerning his on field decision making. Firstly, in the 92nd minute of the game against Mexico with Brazil leading 1-0, Neymar cut in from the left. From an acute angle, many players would have gone for goal instead Neymar passed the ball to the unmarked Jo to score and secure the win. A simple pass but such passes can often be the most difficult to execute particularly when faced with an opportunity to shoot at goal. Secondly, he scored Brazil ’s second goal in their comprehensive win over Spain in the final with a shot of immense ferocity and power. This was the finish of a goalscorer lashing the ball high into the net.

Neymar Specials 2013/2014 Odds

To Be Top Barcelona League Goal Scorer 10.00 NA
To Score On First La Liga Start NA 1.67
To Be Top League Goal Scorer NA 10.00
To Be Top Champions League Goal Scorer NA 15.00
To Win Ballon DOr By 2016/2017 10.00 NA

Odds as at 2nd July 2013.

The Season Ahead

A Brazilian journalist wrote that: "Neymar is leaving, because he grew too big for Brazilian football, with its state championships, its terrible pitches and its calendar that is out of sync with the football world."

Which is partly true. Brazilian football is badly organised but his departure was always inevitable. It was really only a question of when he would depart.

Neymar joins a long line of illustrious Brazilian greats who have played and shined in the spotlight of the Camp Nou . If that sounds like success is inevitable and that he will join the line of players such as Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho down to Dani Alves, a word of caution is needed. The last Brazilian to join Barcelona straight from his homeland was Kerrison who has never played for Barcelona and has been repeatedly sent out on loan. Such a fate is highly unlikely to befall Neymar but it does show that success is not guaranteed.

The first step has been taken over the past few weeks. Neymar has altered many people’s opinions.



Follow Chalk On The Boots on Twitter: @chalkontheboots.

And read more of his work on his blog

Tags:  Football , La Liga

No stereotypes, no cliches, no fuss. Just analysis with a Spanish flavour.