When Barcelona announced the signing of Neymar this summer for more than €50 million, many questioned how he'd fit into the side. He was the main attraction at Santos and, over the summer, became the Brazilian national team's single biggest talent thanks to some remarkable showings in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Camp Nou already boasted a star—a certain Lionel Messi, perhaps you've heard of him?—and fans expressed concerns over a potential clash in ideologies. But the early signs were fantastic, with Neymar telling the public he has arrived to help Messi cement his status as the world's best player.
"My relationship with Messi is wonderful, he's a leader, the best player in the world, and I am here to help," he said, per the Daily Mail. "I'm here to help all my team-mates, be it with passes or with goals."
Here to serve? A fantastic start for the Brazilian, who showed the perfect attitude and approach in his early days in Catalonia. Gerardo Martino eased him in, too, refusing to destabilise the side. Neymar played just 26 minutes as a substitute against Levante, 31 at Atletico Madrid in the cup and 27 against Malaga.
This side, despite being humiliated in the UEFA Champions League, won La Liga at a canter and only needed small tweaks to resume dominant form—you can bet Tata's primary objective in preseason was to restore the pressing game, not integrate Neymar.
But he had to come in some time, and the introduction was always going to cause a stir. True to his word, Neymar has been focused on serving Messi, assisting him in the area and finding him for goals. It's admirable, it's diplomatic....but it's harming Barcelona's chances of winning games.
The 3-2 victory over Valencia at the Mestalla was the first league game in which both stars started, and Messi's hat-trick was all the casual observers were talking about after the game. Neymar set one of those up, and continued to fire key passes the Argentine's way. But the problem is that the Brazilian should have had a hat-trick himself.
He continued to prioritise Messi's goal tally against Sevilla, and again, els Blaugrana squeezed through with a 3-2 scoreline. Neymar's focus also should have been on scoring, and although he did take several angled shots, he always looked to Messi first—sometimes unsuccessfully and foolishly so.
Barca were 3-0 up against Valencia and were pegged back to 3-2, with Jonas hitting the post in the final minutes. Sevilla drew level in the 90th minute Saturday thanks to Coke's volley, and Marko Marin was inches from connecting with a through-ball that could have reversed the 3-2 score before Alexis Sanchez's winner in injury time.
Barca are squandering chance after chance unnecessarily, and Neymar's insistence on assisting Messi and not pulling rank is a hindrance right now.
Neymar has made all the right moves and said all the right things, but the Brazilian needs to start taking more authority in games and decide not to pass to Messi on occasion if Barca are going to remain unbeaten.