Following the announcement that Pep Guardiola will take over as Bayern Munich manager next season, the procession of reports linking Neymar with Barcelona have—if not decreased—become rivaled.
Manchester City and Chelsea's names, not surprisingly, have always been in the hat (via Daily Mail), but it is now the German giants that could add a twist to the most talked about transfer of the last 18 months (via Metro).
Disappointingly for Barca, this competition for Neymar's signature comes at a time when they have arguably realized that they need him the most.
The Champions League defeat in Italy to AC Milan has since been followed up with back-to-back El Clasico defeats to Real Madrid. Spanning those three losses, they had just eight shots on target (via whoscored.com).
Criticisms have been made over their transition from the sizable amount of possession they enjoy in the middle into their attacking play in the final third. It has to be said, this GIF (via balls.ie) and the following possession picture backs up the fact that their killer edge has slightly decreased.
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
Visuals of each team's touches in today's Clásico. Real Madrid on top: http://t.co/OAupvreRHT3/2/2013, 5:04:10 PM
If they have become too reliant on Lionel Messi, as Ben Hayward argued on goal.com at the end of last season, then the arrival of Neymar would give the opposition another real danger man to think about in the final third.
It would also allow Andres Iniesta to move back into a central position where, despite some good performances and many assists on the left, he is a much better player for Barcelona.
That leaves both Alexis Sanchez and David Villa lining up to fill the spot that Neymar could occupy. Sanchez's days seem numbered at Barcelona—he didn't even make the bench for the Copa del Rey Clasico—and Villa, at 31, seems keen for one final move to pursue regular first-team football (via The Sun).
The 21-year-old Brazilian's inclusion would not stifle Messi like the previous arrivals of central forwards have. Neymar would be accommodated on the left, allowing the Argentinian four-time Ballon d'Or winner to stay in his central position—albeit, Los Cules' would hope, with some of the weight lifted from his shoulders.
On the right, Pedro could remain in the hope that his glimpses of form will soon return to the days of 2009-2011, and if not he will be ably backed up by Cristian Tello and Gerard Deulofeu—both La Masia products.
Perhaps the arrival of Neymar would benefit both parties. The Brazilian would add an attacking fluency and edge—if not quite a Plan B—while being at Barcelona would help any player to improve their passing game, just a look at the Rondos in training will tell you that.
The one sticking point could be the fact, as is widely reported (via Sky Sports), that he will not move until after the World Cup in 2014. Writing for ESPN, journalist Ed Malyon talks of a lack of development should he stay in his homeland, and it is that fear, plus Barca's increasing need for him, which could see him break those promises and be lining up on the left of Barca's front three come August.
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