As Barcelona's players, at varying stages, head back for preseason training this week, it's fair to say there will be particular scrutiny on one of their players.
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.
The Brazilian has long been a YouTube favorite among the new generation of football fan, where no league or player is out of reach, but now it's time for him to come of age having joined La Liga's bright lights from Santos this summer.
His performances at the Confederations Cup, where Brazil triumphed over Spain to win the competition, added to the feverish levels of excitement already creeping into Catalunya. However, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, was keen to remind people the club already have a star attraction in an interview with 8tv, as reported by Dave Wood of the Daily Mail:
No one is better than Messi. He’s the best footballer in the history of the club and for me, he’s the best player in the history of the sport. He's the only rooster in the henhouse.
Neymar’s a great player and a great person who has a lot of potential. He can be a great team-mate to Iniesta, Alba, Cesc and Xavi.
[Messi and Neymar] are both great people with great hearts and I believe that both of them will do their best to bring the team as much success as it has had in the past.
Neymar, who is nearly five years Messi's junior, will no doubt look to learn from the Argentinian in the same way that Messi recently admitted he was taken under the wing of Ronaldinho, according to a report on the official club website:
"It’s never easy to go into a changing room at the age of 16, especially with my character. Ronaldinho was the star of the team and he really helped me a lot.”
There can't be many other players who the young Brazilian would rather heed advice from. And, even though he's been scoring goals in his native league on a regular basis since he was 17, this next season could add that extra impetus to Neymar's game—just in time for the World Cup.
|17||33 (10)||8 (1)|
|18||31 (17)||23 (7)|
|19||34 (19)||34 (15)|
|20||31 (23)||40 (16)|
Club appearances (goals) at corresponding ages
Messi has been carrying expectation and focus around with him since he was a teenager. When he was 19, the 2006/07 season, he scored 15 goals in 34 club appearances; at the corresponding age, Neymar managed 19 in 34 games for Santos.
During those years, and the years since, Messi, now 26, will have learnt a lot about how to manage himself, the media and the supporters. The information he has taken on board could be priceless for his new team mate.
Neymar, in a new country, on a new continent, can look to his South American counterpart for guidance. Be it on the pitch or off it, Messi should be the player that he can most relate to—although Messi had the advantage of never carrying around a huge price tag on his head.
On the pitch, the burden will likely be shared—not that it should be much of a burden. The experience of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta will no doubt combine with Messi to help Neymar grow into a more rounded player, ironing out any bad habits.
The loss of Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich, Manchester United's widely reported interest in Cesc Fabregas, noted here by The Telegraph's Mark Ogden, and the bad taste circling between Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and Sandro Rosell has formed a small dark cloud over Camp Nou this past week
Underneath that cloud it's almost been forgotten that the club still harbors some of the world's best players. And if Neymar can even learn one thing from Messi, it's only going to improve what is already an unbelievable talent.