It may not be official just yet, but Neymar made huge news over the weekend by announcing he would sign with Barcelona. Considering Real Madrid were also in hot pursuit of the talented forward, Neymar made the wise decision by choosing the Catalan side.
Before we get into the why of that statement, let's review Neymar's announcement via Instagram:
On Monday, I will sign a contract with Barcelona. I want to thank the fans of Santos for these incredible nine years. My feeling for the club and the fans will never change. It is eternal!
Only a club like Santos FC could give me everything I have lived on and off the field. I thank the wonderful fans who supported me even in the most difficult moments. Titles, goals, dribbling, celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart
... I made sure to play the match tomorrow in Brasilia. I want to have the opportunity to once again take the field with the "mantle" and hear the crowd scream my name ... as the hymn says, "It is an honor that not everyone can have ..."
It is a different time for me, a sad (farewell) and cheerful (new challenge). May God bless me in my choices ... And I'm always in Santos!
Barcelona's website soon verified the news, releasing a statement that noted, "FC Barcelona and Santos FC have agreed to terms for Neymar da Silva Junior. The Brazilian forward will don the Blaugrana strip for the next five seasons."
So why was Barca the right choice for Neymar?
For one, stability. While Real Madrid is sure to have turnover on the roster now that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club, Barcelona has an experienced core in place and will return manager Tito Vilanova.
Plus, Neymar knows exactly the type of system he is entering. Barcelona aren't going to stray from a tiki-taka approach with Lionel Messi as the primary offensive focal point just because Neymar is now at the club.
While the Brazilian starlet will surely be given some freedom on the left wing to drift centrally and inter-change with Messi on the attack, he'll be expected to adapt to Barcelona's style; one he's had plenty of time to learn, study and admire from afar.
And that brings up another key point—his position on the left wing will absolutely be available to him at Barcelona unless he really struggles in his transition to the European game. At Real Madrid, that position is occupied by Cristiano Ronaldo (at least for the time being), who has earned the right to play where he is most comfortable.
Sure, could Ronaldo slide out to center forward? Absolutely. Could Neymar as well, or man the right side? Of course. But would Real Madrid really be best suited with two players who like the freedom to play both wide and cut into the center of the pitch on the wings?
I think it would be a tricky partnership, to be honest.
Whereas Messi is perfectly suited to play the false nine role and create chances on the edge of the box with only inches of space to maneuver, Neymar is at his most dangerous in space when he can break down defenders one-on-one and either find his own shot or create for others. For that reason, I see them being a better attacking pair than Ronaldo and Neymar, who play somewhat similar styles.
And while Real Madrid fans won't like to hear this, Barcelona simply remains the better club, and have enjoyed more success over the past five years. Sure, the Catalans may have been embarrassed in the Champions League semifinals against Bayern Munich, but let's not forget Barca did win a La Liga title this year—the fourth in the past five years.
This is a club that, with the addition of Neymar and another centre-back or two, should go into next season at least as co-favorites to win the Champions League alongside defending titleholders Bayern Munich.
All in all, it's hard to argue that Neymar made the wrong choice. He'll have to tweak aspects of his game and get used to the fact that he won't be able to dance on the ball like he so often could at Santos, but he's a natural fit on the left wing for Barca and should form a devastating pairing with Messi.
Look out, Europe—Neymar Time is upon us.