Neymar's Time to Shine Under Barcelona Spotlight in Lionel Messi's Absence

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his team-mate Neymar of FC Barcelona after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan at Camp Nou on November 6, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Upon hearing last week that Lionel Messi could be ruled out of action until 2014, there will have been a solemn feeling in the gut of the many who admire the four-time Ballon d'Or winner.

According to a Guardian report, the Argentinian attacker will be missing for the next six to eight weeks, and it's not the first muscle injury that the player has picked up in the last 12 months.

Sky Sports News confirmed the absence:

However, there is cause for La Blaugrana to be hopeful of their chances over that period, for Neymar has been lurking in the shadow of his recently acquired teammate.

His translation to the European game from South America has been an impressive one, handling the intercontinental swap with relative ease.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 10: Neymar of FC Barcelona warms up prior to the La Liga match between Real Betis Balompie and FC Barcelona at Estadio Benito Villamarin on November 10, 2013 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

However, the forward isn't yet the star of the show that he was in his native Santos and needs to go about making sure it's not a stigma that lasts.

It seems that many are of the perception that for one to rise, another must fall, whereas it's quite plausible to believe that both Messi and Neymar can do damage as one, combined force. For that to happen, however, the Brazilian half of the couple first needs to find his feet as a more prominent member of the first team, closer to the presence he held at Santos.

For the great majority of his time in Spain, Neymar has been fielded out on the left wing by Gerardo Martino, a position to which he may be accustomed, but is certainly not his most effective.

While Messi was absent for a brief period at the start of October, it was here that Martino saw fit to draft his €57 million signing into a more central role, closer to that of a centre forward, which suits him better.

However, the superstar-in-chief was back before we knew it and Neymar was once again on the wing. Although still producing great sparkle on the flanks, one might question: "Is there more?"

One person who believes that Neymar can thrive now is teammate Dani Alves, who is reported by Globoesporte (h/t Spanish newspaper Marca) as staging his support for his compatriot, saying:

He is always ready; he knows how important he is to Barcelona and that he was signed for moments like this one

Someone has to take on that job and because of the name he has made for himself and his quality he is the player to do that and I think he will be up to it.

November and December promise to reveal precisely that. If Martino stays true to form and does indeed bring the Brazil international into his more natural striking position, there's a great chance he'll get more comfortable in the squad and begin yielding above and beyond what's already been seen.

And just when the rest of La Liga thought it was safe.