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How Barcelona Signing Neymar Will Affect Lionel Messi's Football Legacy

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How Barcelona Signing Neymar Will Affect Lionel Messi's Football Legacy

Barcelona fans' adoration of their star man, Lionel Messi, is unquestionable and seemingly limitless, and it may be part of the reason that many of them are just a tad anxious about the recent signing of the breathtaking Brazilian wunderkind Neymar from Santos.

The Catalan club beat out arch-rivals Real Madrid for the signature of the player who, according to SportPro, is the most marketable athlete on the planet right now, as explained here by Yahoo! Sport UK.

You would think every Barcelona fan would be over the moon with the signing, yet many are raising doubts.

They are nervous, basically, because there is so much at stake. Even for neutrals, it is hard not to get excited about the most high-profile transfer of the European summer, but it is also easy to see how it could go wrong.

Spanish football expert Sid Lowe, quoting a certain Johan Cruyff, explained in The Guardian why some at Barcelona are not yet fully convinced the purchase of Neymar was a good idea.

...the signing, which feels to some like a matter of presidential prerogative rather than tactical necessity, has provoked significant doubts – not least because Barcelona's priority was a defender.

Others have questioned whether Neymar, who has scored 20 goals in 32 appearance for Brazil, is as good as he appears and if he will adapt sufficiently quickly to the European game.

Then there is the issue of his ability to combine with Messi, around whom Barcelona have built their team. Asked about the signing of the Brazilian, Johan Cruyff, the former Barcelona player and coach, and long a critic of Rosell, said: "Messi and Neymar? Two captains on one boat doesn't work."

It is that last point that we will delve into here. What effect will the arrival of Neymar have on the four-time Ballon d'Or winner and undisputed linchpin of the current Barcelona side, both in terms of the coming season and his overall legacy in the years to come?

The risk of a new superstar on Barcelona's books unsettling Messi appears to be negligible, in the short term at least.

Neymar himself has made it crystal clear that he knows who the alpha male in the Barcelona wolf pack is, as his quotes at his unveiling at the club reveal, as tweeted by the English edition of Marca.

If the relationship between the two South Americans develops into a master-and-apprentice style bromance in the 2013/14 season, the Catalans are odds on to find themselves back at the top echelon of European football again, after having been knocked down a peg or two by Bayern Munich recently.

And what if the Brazilian fails to find his feet in Spanish football, does not adapt to the Barcelona style of play or, in spite of his deferential public statements, cannot handle playing second fiddle to Messi? Simple, the club will cut their losses and move him along. The Argentine has racked up a limitless amount of credit in Catalunya over the past few years, and no newcomer will be challenging his top-dog status any time soon. Just ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic how bucking the Barcelona system worked out for him.

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
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Should the charismatic Santos product fulfill his talent over the coming seasons and become a new Blaugrana idol, is there a chance he could one day shine brighter than 'the Flea' and eventually shunt him out of the side? The whole master-and-apprentice thing is wonderful when it works, but remember what happened to Obi Wan Kenobi when young Anakin decided he had learnt enough? Nobody wants to see little Lionel vaporized in a Death Star lightsaber battle. Well, Cristiano might actually get a kick out of that, but nobody else.

A scenario where the Argentine captain becomes redundant at Barcelona is possible but very unlikely. When faced with challenges, Messi doesn't tend to get bitter, he just gets better.

Critics said the No. 10 was ineffective against English opposition, then he scored four goals against Arsenal in the Champions League. They said he failed to perform for his national side, yet under the stewardship of Alejandro Sabella, he has not stopped scoring for the Albicelestes. It was claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo was a more complete footballer, but Messi has now beaten him to the Ballon d'Or four times in a row. When faced with questions, the Argentine's spooky talent almost always answers with a triple exclamation point.

Messi playing quite well for Argentina

More likely, a thriving Neymar will bring the best out of Messi, and vice versa. The man from Rosario currently bears a tremendous amount of responsibility at Barcelona, and if even a fraction of that is shifted elsewhere, Lionel will surely flourish even more. Such are the creativity, finishing skills and footballing intelligence of the two players that, combined, they have the potential to become the most potent attacking force in the game for the next decade or so. 

Whether Messi moves on from Barcelona in four, six or 10 years, chances are his legacy will be as strong as ever. 

That prospect should be a terrifying one for all of Barcelona's rivals, but for Lionel Messi fans, it is a reason to rub their hands together in anticipation rather than bite their nails in apprehension. 

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