Neymar is a marquee signing for Barcelona, but I have serious doubts about whether he is what the Spanish side really need.
He reminds me of Robinho. Same height, same type, same physical attributes (or lack of) – and I have exactly the same reservations about him.
I first saw Robinho in the 2005 Confederations Cup when he was being hyped, and I thought then: ‘This boy is going to have big problems’. And I see no difference between him and Neymar.
Moving to Europe is a big thing for a South American player, so in one sense the move to Barcelona makes great sense – he will acclimatise better in Spain to the lifestyle.
The biggest problem with Neymar at the Nou Camp is the way they play. I can see him being given a free role. Barca just want players to be near the ball, to be available – the lack of structure could hurt him as he settles.
And Lionel Messi, unintentionally, will be another problem to contend with as well. This is his team, and other strikers have not found it easy here. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not been backward in coming forward to tell us what it was like was in the same team as him, while we hear stories about Alexis Sanchez being unhappy.
Messi’s a better player – and he will dictate. That’s not a criticism of Messi, it’s a reality of him being a great footballer.
And Barcelona are still capable of those excellent standards, but they’ve lost some of their structure in the last four years. They used to have wide men with pace – now everyone congregates in the middle. Does Neymar address that problem?
I think he might have actually been better off at Real Madrid. There would have been a clearer role for him there as the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria behind him. Mind you, it wouldn’t surprise me if Real respond by going out and signing Gareth Bale.
Wherever he went, though, the pressure on Neymar will inevitably be massive, too. He’s going to a club that think of themselves as the best in the world, and for big money. The stakes are high for him to improve Barcelona immediately and there won’t be many excuses for him at this level.
I saw him play against England earlier this year and I didn’t see much from him. You can have off days, but even just those little sparks or touches – they weren’t there. People will be watching very closely when England take on Brazil next time if he plays.
He always talked about leaving in 2014 after the World Cup on home soil.
Now that’s been pushed forward, presumably because Barcelona want to make a statement. But if Neymar doesn’t settle, either to the lifestyle or the team structure, straight away, then it’s not out of the question that he could play himself out of a Brazil shirt before the World Cup comes around.
We’ve seen players like Sanchez, or Alex Song come to Barcelona and fall down the pecking order. Perhaps they don’t quite get the way Barcelona play, and blend into the team. Either way, the Blaugrana don’t need potential, they need ready-made replacements for a thin squad, and what Bayern Munich showed they lacked more than anything else is power.
In any other close season, the Catalans might have given themselves a little more time, weighed up the deal, and decided that the fee or the timing is wrong, and gone elsewhere.
It’s an incredible gamble for both player and club, and while it could pay off for them both, there’s an awful lot of ways that it could go very, very wrong.
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