Why Neymar Would Solidify Barcelona's Hopes for Champions League Glory
Indeed, some outlets have already credited Barcelona with having made an original payment towards signing the talented youngster whenever he does leave South America.
It remains to be seen if he does depart for Europe this summer, next summer or even waits until after the World Cup in his homeland in 2014, but if the Blaugrana have serious aspirations of winning the UEFA Champions League in Tito Vilanova's debut season, they would do well to capture him in the next few weeks.
Here are five reasons why Neymar could be key to their hopes of landing Europe's most prestigious prize.
Movement Behind Defenders off the Ball
Playing from the left hand side of the Santos attack, Neymar has shown great movement and ability to get behind the line of the defence and into space for his team mates to find.
Barcelona's slow, methodical build-up is just one key part of their game-plan; the second, and ultimately the game-winning part of the plan, is to have players anticipate and notice when the spaces become available as a result of opponents getting dragged out of position.
This is the point at which Neymar's movement would become key, as he utilises his great acceleration to move into the gap to receive the ball behind the defence.
With some of the world's best passers looking to feed him the ball, chances to shoot or pass inside the area would be in plentiful supply.
Individual Skill on the Ball
No doubt about it; the lad has tricks aplenty.
For those games where the opposition defence is too well-organised, well-drilled and well-covering Leo Messi, an alternative route to goal might be the more individualistic one.
In tight games like the Champions League knock-out phases, a player who can commit defenders in and around the edge of the penalty area has a great chance of being a match-winner, either by way of creating a chance to shoot on goal for himself or by winning a free kick or penalty for his team.
Quite aside from the level of skills and technique Neymar has, he has also shown the all-important end product by scoring reams of goals for club and country.
While the quality of the Paulista State Championship might be questioned in some quarters, Neymar has maintained an extremely impressive 1-in-2 ratio, or very close to it, in every competition he has partaken in, including international level, where he has nine goals in 18 caps for the full Brazil national team.
110 goals in 186 official matches is a phenomenal strike rate for a player who plays most of the time in a free flank role and who is just barely out of his teenage years.
Increase Spending Power for Further Purchases
The transfer fee to bring Neymar to Catalunya would be massive—perhaps in the region of £30 million or more.
Barcelona would make that fee back many, many times over. In shirt and merchandising sales alone they could recoup that amount in a matter of months.
Not that the Spanish side are particularly short of a few quid anyway, but signing Neymar would help them raise additional funds in the medium term, which could be used for further strengthening of the team in January.
Strength in Depth in Final Third and a Challenger for David Villa
In all the praise and excitement over Neymar, it must not be overlooked that the man whose place he would most likely take in the Barcelona side is the hugely successful David Villa.
The former Zaragoza forward missed most of last season through injury, but he will have recovered to play his part in the forthcoming season and will be anxious to make up for lost time.
There are two ways to look at the Neymar-Villa battle. In one scenario, Villa's position in the side remains the same and he plays plenty of league football, giving Neymar a chance to both get used to the European game and learn the Barcelona way of playing, whilst getting his chance in European games.
Alternatively, Villa would be freed up to play a more central role when needed or be used as an impact substitute when Neymar was off-form, tiring or simply needing to be replaced if Barcelona were unable to find a route to goal.
Certainly, for all his brilliance, there should be no suggestion of Neymar simply walking in and taking the place of one of the finest goalscorers of the last half a dozen years.
The signing of Neymar would be a massive coup for Barcelona though, and even if he doesn't start all the time domestically, the Champions League would be a great stage for him to showcase his talents and could be a big factor in pushing Barcelona towards winning it outright once more.
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