Neymar Has Proved an Able Deputy to Lionel Messi at Barcelona
With Lionel Messi out of action until after the international break, the impressive performances of Neymar as his replacement will have gladdened the hearts of Tata Martino and the Barcelona faithful.
Messi will undoubtedly be back to lead the side so it’s hardly a case of, "The King is dead; Long Live the King", but what it does show is that, in Neymar, Barcelona have gained the services of a player who, like Messi and Ronaldinho before him, is able to carry the team on his shoulders with just about everything going through him.
Combining the directness he shows with the Brazil national side with the slick passing aspect of the Barcelona game, Neymar dominated proceedings against Celtic in the Champions League. And then he laid on two goals for Alexis Sanchez, as well as scoring one himself against Valladolid.
Like Messi when he first broke through into the Barca first team, Neymar has had to content himself up to now with showing what he can do from the flank if Leo is around. Back then Messi had to survive as a right winger until his moment came.
When it did arrive, it meant that Ronaldinho had to go to accommodate the precocious young Argentinian. As a result many are now claiming that that in the long term these two great talents, Messi and Neymar, will be unable to play together.
I am convinced they can, not least because they are different types of players.
Both realise the importance of their game without the ball, both work hard to regain it and to have Neymar as an assistant to Messi, and vice-versa, will ultimately prove a massive asset for the Catalan club.
But when Messi returns, Neymar will have to return to the flank and once again just about everything will be played through Messi. He is the one that has shown consistently that he can lead the side and for the moment Neymar will have to keep knocking on the door before there is a change in the hierarchy at the Camp Nou.
Meanwhile at Madrid
About 620 kilometres away at the Santiago Bernabeu, things don’t look so rosy for Real Madrid.
Another late show against Levante put them back onto the league winning road but only because of the belief that the big sides always seem to have that where there’s life there’s hope, and that a match is never over until it’s over.
That said, there are still a number of huge concerns for Carlo Ancelotti..
Gareth Bale is injured and I have always said that he made his debut too early and should have been looked after better by his new club. I know for a fact that was the advice given by doctors to the technical staff.
In addition the Madrid set up looks unbalanced. They clearly miss the control of Mesut Ozil.
Alvaro Morata and Marcelo, who were on the bench, will soon become regulars with Karim Benzema and Fabio Coentrao relegated to the sidelines.
With Raphael Varane teaming up with Sergio Ramos in the back and Asier Illarramendi keeping the seat warm for Xabi Alonso, this could be the latest evolution for the Madrid side.
But they are names. What they have to decide first is how they want to play, where they want the defensive line, how are they going to apply the pressure high up, how are they going to find spaces for Ronaldo to explore.
So many questions for Carlo Ancelotti to answer.
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