Reports have emerged that link Lionel Messi with a move away from Barcelona in the summer, but the revelatory form of Neymar has shown that the Catalan giants can remain good without their Argentinian maestro.
Against Celtic, Neymar produced an inspired display that served to embarrass both Celtic and their manager. In the buildup to the game, Neil Lennon made some derogatory remarks about Neymar's playing style.
In comments reported by the Daily Mail, the Celtic manager branded the Brazilian "immature" and stated that he would "exaggerate contact" in order to get a decision from the referee.
Neymar responded in the best possible way with a dazzling individual display that saw him net a hat-trick that contributed to a 6-1 thrashing.
Neymar: "I felt like breaking down and crying when I got a standing ovation on Wednesday. It was a feeling of immense happiness."— FC Barcelona (@FCBarceIonaCAT) December 14, 2013
Those three goals came in the space of 13 minutes, which is the fast Champions League hat-trick of all time and shows the continuing development of Neymar at Barca.
While it could be argued that Celtic are not a true test of his capabilities, it shows that he is in fact capable of running the attack for La Blaugrana.
There have been doubts of his ability since his arrival, but the manner in which he stepped up in the face of criticism was admirable, and he should now take that form and build on it in La Liga.
In the domestic league, the team's recent shocking loss to Athletic Bilbao meant that Barcelona's three-point lead over Atletico Madrid was erased. The impressive European victory over Celtic should get them firing again ahead of Saturday's clash with Villa Real.
Koke, Neymar and Fabregas all lead the way with 8 assists in La Liga this season. @RoryHannon97— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 13, 2013
Following the lesson given to Celtic, Barca boss Tata Martino was quick to praise the performance of his side, via Sky Sports:
It was one of the most complete games we've played. There was good pressure, intensity and we played well.
Neymar needed a couple of minutes to adapt from his position on the wing to the centre. The goal gave him confidence and from there he showed his repertoire.
I'm amazed at his level of commitment to the team. It's strange in players that are as good as him.
When Neymar is allowed the freedom to roam the spaces that Messi's absence creates, he can dominate a game and demoralise the opposition within minutes. He showed both brilliant individual skill and a thorough awareness of the situation, instinctively knowing how he could best serve his team.
His eight goals and 10 assists for Barca this year illustrate Martino's comments well and prove that he is both committed and adaptable.
He's not about to replace Messi, but his recent emergence shows that both he and his club are more than capable of dominance as their star player recovers from injury.