Neymar Makes Barcelona Debut as Lionel Messi Scores Against Lechia Gdansk
The Neymar era has begun at Barcelona, but you won't be surprised to know that the Brazilian's first game for his new employer featured another goal by Lionel Messi.
Messi, the four-time defending Ballon d'Or winner, scored in the 57th minute as Barcelona drew 2-2 with Polish side Lechia Gdansk at Gdansk's PGE Arena on Tuesday in a preseason friendly. The hosts twice took the lead and often threatened to pull an upset, but Messi and Neymar wrote the headlines in the end.
Neymar, who signed for Barcelona from Santos in June in a deal worth a reported £49 million according to BBC Sport, started the match on the bench. Wearing his new No. 11 shirt, the 21-year-old Brazil international entered the field in the 79th minute, replacing Alexis Sanchez.
(GIF via Bleacher Report)
Neymar's arrival has come with plenty of hype following a sterling career in Brazil. As a 19-year-old, he won the FIFA Puskas Award for the world's best goal of the year. In June he won the Golden Ball for player of the tournament as Brazil won the FIFA Confederations Cup, beating Spain in the final.
But for the first 78 minutes Tuesday, Neymar rode the bench while wearing an obviously unhappy expression:
While Neymar was on the bench, the two teams scored all four of the game's goals. Lechia took the lead through Jaroslaw Bieniuk (14th minute) and again through Piotr Grzelczak (50th minute). Sergi Roberto equalized for Barca in the 25th minute, and Messi leveled the score a second time in the 57th.
Messi, 26, led La Liga with 46 goals last season and bagged a world-record 91 strikes in 2012.
Neymar's introduction came moments after Messi was subbed out. That means the two will have to wait at least a few more days to play together on the same pitch for the first time. Their next chance will be Friday, when Barcelona host Neymar's former team, Santos.
The match was originally scheduled for July 20 but was postponed following manager Tito Vilanova's decision to leave Barcelona due to recurring illness. Vilanova's replacement, Tata Martino, held his first training session with players on Monday after watching Barca's 7-0 friendly win over Valerenga from the stands.
Following Tuesday's match in Poland, Barcelona return home to play Santos for the Joan Gamper Trophy on Friday.
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