With a lot of recent buzz suggesting Neymar would make the leap to European football this summer and both Barcelona and Real Madrid regularly linked to the Brazilian superstar, the question regarding Neymar's future is simple:
Would he be a better fit at Barcelona or Real Madrid?
Below, I break down how he would fit into each team's style of play and how he would fit with the other talent already on the roster. Let's predict the future for Neymar.
The first positive about Barcelona is that Neymar would instantly be able to slide into his natural role at left wing in Barca's attack. The Catalans could desperately use another true goalscorer to complement Lionel Messi or allow him to take a breather, and Neymar would certainly scratch that itch.
The thought of Neymar streaming down the right side or cutting inside and inter-changing with Messi is certainly an exciting one to ponder.
He would have to adjust to the fact that Messi would remain the center of Barca's attack, however. Neymar's habit of playing on the ball and constantly looking to beat defenders one-on-one may not play as well for the Catalans, whose tiki-taka style is predicated on short, quick passes and smart movement off the ball.
That style of play and buildup is slower than what Neymar is accustomed to as well, especially since Brasil likes to turn its pressing defense into quick-hitting attacks. While Barca can pinball around the pitch on a quick counter with quick passing and allow Messi run into the heart of the defense, the Catalans tend to be more deliberate and meticulous when building the attack.
Neymar would have to adjust his play, but with his natural position available to him and players like Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta to work with, his addition would instantly put Barcelona back atop Europe's elite.
With no turnover at manager likely and a solid core of veteran players in place, Barcelona would be an excellent fit for Neymar in his entry to European football.
Stylistically—at least in terms of Real Madrid's style in recent years—Real Madrid might be the better fit. The team's ability to burst forward on the counter attack and blitzkrieg an opponent's goal would fit Neymar's uptempo style perfectly.
However, there are so many other factors to consider here. With Jose Mourinho likely gone after the season, there will be turnover in Madrid this summer. It remains to be seen who the new manager will be or what tactics will be implemented (though any intelligent manager would build a system around a player like Neymar).
Plus, there is the little matter of that Cristiano Ronaldo fellow already playing at the club. Ronaldo also likes to play on the left wing (though he is no stranger to drifting inward himself), and while Neymar could certainly slide out to the right, it's hard to imagine how the offense would operate with two wingers wanting to be the hub of the attack and desiring free reign to drift into various positions on the pitch.
Neymar would be a better fit on...
Of course, if Ronaldo departs this summer, then Neymar is the perfect replacement. And Real Madrid will probably be willing to make him a very, very rich man. It's not hard to see Neymar becoming the face of Real Madrid for a long time if he makes that move.
Barcelona has a place for him at his preferred position immediately, and the possibility of Neymar and Messi playing next to one another is frightening if Neymar accepts the offense will be run through Messi. Yet if Ronaldo departs Real Madrid, Los Blancos' attack would immediately be built around Neymar.
In other words, if Ronaldo sticks around, I think Neymar would probably be better off heading to Barca. But if Ronaldo departs this summer, Real Madrid would make a lot of sense for the Brazilian starlet.
Either way, the rest of Europe is in a lot of trouble.