Neymar Must Seize Greater Role with Barcelona in Lionel Messi's Absence
It's far too early to call Neymar's brief time spent with Barcelona a disappointment. But nonetheless the Brazilian sensation must up his game for the Spanish giants in the absence of the planet's best player, Lionel Messi.
As per ESPNFC, The club has recently confirmed that Messi will be sidelined for two to three weeks while he recovers from a thigh injury.
But while Gerardo Martino and Barcelona will miss Messi's impressive scoring output—11 goals in nine games—they will likely miss his presence even more. That's why Neymar must look to seize the role Messi has performed so well in over the years.
He must become more aggressive and even a bit more selfish. Despite having appeared in the same number of games as his fellow South American in 2013-14, Neymar has managed nearly half as many shots, striking just 23 total in nine matches, only three of which he came on as a substitute.
It's safe to say that Neymar has settled into a more creative role with the reigning Spanish champions to start the season, recording five assists while scoring just two goals.
With Messi out of the mix, that must change.
Ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Celtic, Neymar's teammate, Cesc Fabregas suggested that the 21-year-old is arguably the most important player when it comes to providing a spark for Barca in the coming weeks while Messi is sidelined, per ESPNFC's Dermot Corrigan:
Ney is a very talented player, very quick in small spaces, who can easily get away from defenders. He is a star in the making, he already is a star, but he will have a big say in the future of football.
In the future we will speak of him as one of the greats. I do not see him worried by the pressure, which is very important for a young player.
While the wise and experienced Fabregas isn't calling his teammate out, he is planting a seed and giving the talented forward the green light to take over.
Sure, Neymar faces much more difficult challenges in La Liga and the Champions League than he did playing with Santos in Brazil. But he has proven during his time with the Brazilian national team that no competition is too overwhelming for him.
He lit up the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup this past summer and has 26 goals and 18 assists in just 42 appearances with the senior squad on the international stage.
Will Neymar improve in Lionel Messi's absence?
On the club level, he's scored nearly 140 goals since 2009, playing as a teenager for most of those years.
It's not that Neymar has been underwhelming thus far at Camp Nou as much as it is about him joining a better club, where he isn't forced to carry such a heavy scoring burden. But with Barcelona's top player going down, all eyes will be on Neymar and his nose for goal.
He's shown that he can score magical goals in a Barca uniform already this season, but if he hopes to justify his supporters and prove his critics wrong, he must seize the alpha dog role and become more prolific in Messi's absence.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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