Santos vs. Barcelona: 5 Things We Learned
The match, one of two friendly fixtures agreed as part of Neymar's transfer, was supposed to be a test of Barcelona's strength against a Santos side in the middle of their season. However, it turned out to be a one-sided affair.
Neymar himself made an appearance for his new club in the second half and, although unable to get on the scoresheet, was lively throughout.
What then can we learn from the encounter?
1. Santos Are a Shadow of Their Former Self
It has been just two years since the greatest moment in Santos' recent history when the club won the 2011 Copa Libertadores—their first triumph in the competition for 50 years.
However, the club has failed to build upon that high. The two great stars of the side—Ganso and Neymar—have both departed and the players to have come in are simply nowhere near the same level.
There are bright young sparks, such as Victor Andrade, Giva and Gabriel Barbosa, but there are also too many of the 2011 side's older players who are now looking past their best.
An 8-0 victory did not flatter Barcelona and should serve as an embarrassing wake up call to the Santos board as to the cost of third party ownership when selling your top stars.
2. Alexis Sanchez Will Fight for His Place
Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez was thought to be a potential candidate to leave the Camp Nou this summer, but put in a Man of the Match performance against Santos.
Sanchez has been judged harshly in his time at the club thus far, but did not look in any mood to meekly give up his place on the left of the attack to the incoming Neymar.
The former Udinese player scored a sublime first-half goal after a sharp one-two with Lionel Messi and also helped set up a goal for teammate Cesc Fabregas after the break.
It was an impressive showing and one that will make coach Tata Martino's team selections even more difficult in the coming weeks.
3. Neymar Will Fit Barcelona Perfectly
Neymar was someway off his best on Friday night, as he slowly makes his way into pre-season with his new side. However, he showed more than enough to suggest he will have few problems adapting.
His assist for Cesc Fabregas' second goal was sublime, taking on his man before stopping dead and picking out a pinpoint pass into the centre. He could well have also won a penalty for his side.
The Brazilian will be expected to perform miracles from the off, which is more than a little unfair, but he has the ability to at least make a significant impact from Day 1.
His directness will add much to Barcelona's play and, while he occasionally looked to force play too much against Santos, he should settle down into the rhythm of the team in coming weeks.
4. Jean-Marie Dongou Is Progressing Quickly
Cameroonian teenager Jean-Marie Dongou has been hailed as a future star for quite some time and, following two good performances in the space of a few days, that hype is only going to increase.
Having only turned 18 in April, Dongou is still remarkably young for a player with one-and-a-half years of senior football behind him with Barcelona B. While he has not been exceptional at that level, it is clear that he is progressing.
While his goal was relatively simple, there were a couple of moments where Dongou lit up the Camp Nou with lightening dribbling past defenders. Indeed, had Neymar finished a straightforward chance, he would also have had an assist to his name.
Dongou showed great intelligence in his movement, which will have pleased Martino, and should have done enough to earn a place in the squad to take on Thailand later this week.
5. Tata Martino Will Not Change Too Much
The fixture with Santos was Gerardo Martino's second official match in charge of the Catalan side and, thus far, all evidence suggests that he will not change too much.
Barcelona set out in their usual 4-3-3 formation, with Argentine Javier Mascherano at centre-back and Lionel Messi operating as a false nine. It was all very familiar.
One thing that was noticeable was the intensity with which the side pressed Santos—something which at times was lacking last season—but then it was not the most taxing of encounters for the Catalans.
With 15 goals in two games, Martino will be pleased with his first week at the helm. The serious matter at hand, though, is only just beginning.