Why Neymar Needs Big Performance for Barcelona vs. Osasuna Ahead of El Clasico

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistOctober 19, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 05:  Neymar of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Valladolid CF at Camp Nou on October 5, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Neymar’s arrival at Barcelona was heralded as a coming of the "next big thing" such was the hype around the young Brazilian finally making his long foretold move to La Liga.

While he’s been far from ineffective for the Spanish champions, it would be fair to say that Neymar hasn’t exactly lit up the pitch with as much magic as some might have thought he would in his first footsteps as a European force.

Now, of course, one has to mention the trans-continental journey that Neymar has made from the Brasileiro Serie A to the Camp Nou. It’s a leap some never manage to conquer, while others take a season or even several to settle into their new surroundings.

So far, the 21-year-old has scored two goals in seven starts for La Blaugrana, the last five of which have been as a starter.

Despite such a return, Maradona still ranks the Barcelona newcomer as the third-best player in the world, according to Tancredi Palmeri:

Up next for the youngster is a trip to El Sadar in Pamplona, where he’ll come up against the third-worst home defence in the Primera Division, making for a fruitful venture as far as the visitors are concerned.

That scoring return from Neymar is significantly lower than what he managed in his native Brazil. With Santos, the starlet scored a magnificent 109 goals in 184 appearances, easily besting an average of a goal every other game.

However, the excuse of hopping continental borders is one that will only run for so long until further questions are asked of Neymar. After all, it’s not every day that £48.6 million is forked out for a player still with another decade of playing in front of him.

One thing that can be said of the forward is that he’s been a tremendous provisional asset to Gerardo Martino’s setup. With five assists in his seven La Liga matches, Neymar has been a good supply of ammunition for those around him, but it’s not the impact for which he was drafted in.

Martino has a thriving roster of creative talents at his disposal, arguably the finest array in the world, but it’s the more dynamic and explosive contributions that the world wants to see replicated now that the player is in Spain.

With that in mind, it’s adapting to the Barcelona way of things that's perhaps proving troublesome at the moment. With a passing accuracy of 85 percent according to Squawka, Neymar isn’t even in the top 15 passing players at Barca right now.

Granted, Messi’s own record is just 84 percent, but as the main attacking threat of the side and given all that he does on the basis he does it, the Argentinian is almost exempt from such shortcomings.

Mostly lined up as a left winger, it was against Real Valladolid—in the absence of his superstar strike partner—that Neymar was pushed into a centre-forward role and had his best display for Barcelona yet, scoring his second league goal for the club and assisting another.

The Catalans have been boosted by the news that, per BBC Sport, Messi and Carles Puyol return to the line-up, the latter making his comeback after six months while the former has been missing through injury since September 28.

In that sense, perhaps Neymar could have done with Messi staying out of the spotlight for a tad longer, allowing him to grow as a more senior member of the team as opposed to the somewhat nervy-looking figure that’s sometimes on show when he’s around.

In any case, there will come a time when the masses will demand a certain pedigree of Neymar, with this Saturday’s fixture against relegation candidates Osasuna being the perfect opportunity to ignite it.