Sambafoot Sunday: Neymar's Barcelona? Neymar's Brazil
Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...
Neymar’s form at Barcelona is discussed, critiqued, and analysed week after week, game after game. The high profile nature of his transfer from Brazil to Catalonia, coupled with the recently revealed baggage surrounding the complexities of the deal, means his performances are constantly in the spotlight.
The player wouldn’t have expected anything less though. And the big move to Europe was something he’d bided his time for, was something he wanted, and was ultimately, something he needed.
A common line is that Neymar has been stifled at Barcelona, playing as part of a system which favours other players, rather than awarding him the freer role he had at Santos and retains to some extent when playing for Brazil.
If we rewind back to Neymar's final season at Santos, we saw a player who looked de-motivated, and was playing his club matches in cruise control. His free role had become detrimental, and you got the impression from his demeanour and performances on the pitch, that he felt he’d already sufficiently proved himself in Brazil, and need do nothing more.
That might have been the case, as there were rumours that the Barcelona move had been in the pipeline for some time, ever since the then European champions played Santos in the World Club Cup back in 2011.
Back to the present day, Barcelona’s 2013/14 season has been disappointing for several reasons, and not just because Neymar hasn’t hit the heights many expected.
Coach Tata Martino joined Barcelona amidst some enthusiastic claims that he was ideal for the club thanks to his tutelage under the much lauded and well respected Marcelo Bielsa.
Martino’s predecessor, Pep Guardiola, had also sought the advice of the experienced Argentine in his early days as a coach, and to many, Martino was the next logical step in Barcelona’s Bielsista post-graduate programme.
The reality, as is often the case in football, has been much different to the theory. Martino has failed to get the best from Lionel Messi, and his tinkering with Cesc Fabregas has given too much responsibility to a player who doesn’t yet look ready for it.
The club’s lack of centre-back cover since the injury to Gerard Pique, and the recent threat of a transfer ban, suggest that Neymar’s occasional poor performance should be the least of Barcelona’s worries.
Despite the troubles, Neymar’s experiences in Spain will still be beneficial to Brazil, and his recent injury might be even more welcome. Brazil’s number ten has learnt to be disciplined within a tactical system, and has been playing regularly in the Champions League against the standard of player he’s likely to come up against in the big games at the World Cup.
The recent injury will give him time to get his head together before this summer's tournament, and provide an opportunity to recharge mentally as well as physically, after what has been a hectic first season in Europe.
It’s true that Barcelona could alter their system to get the most from Neymar, but his productivity hasn’t been too shabby for them despite being shifted around from wing to wing to accommodate other players. Most at Barcelona, particularly his team-mates, recognise Neymar’s talent, and after this bedding in season in could become a more integral part of their system.
Although you can guarantee that, should Brazil fail to win the World Cup, Barcelona will receive a big slice of the apportioned blame.