Pedro and Alexis Show That Signing Neymar Was Unnecessary

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJanuary 26, 2014

Both Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez were amongst the goals again.
Both Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez were amongst the goals again.David Ramos/Getty Images

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior—the player who brought down a Barcelona president. A transfer so irreverent as to render "Mes que un club" irrelevant.

The €57 million (or was it €85 million?) transfer of Brazil's golden boy was a marquee signing of the type more commonly seen in the Spanish capital.

But was it really necessary? On the evidence of what we have seen throughout much of this season, and again tonight, you would have to say no. 

Despite some quite uncalled for press criticism, Tata Martino has given the Blaugrana a successful makeover. A new dimension has been added but not at the expense of the sort of interplay that all Barcelona fans hold dear. 

Whatever the machinations of getting Neymar to sign on the dotted line at Camp Nou, 2013 marked a seismic shift in the way Barca conducted their business.

Sandro Rosell's pursuit of Neymar was more akin to Real Madrid's.
Sandro Rosell's pursuit of Neymar was more akin to Real Madrid's.David Ramos/Getty Images

Sponsors would surely expect, nay demand, that the young starlet would have top billing rather than a peripheral role and so someone would have to be the fall guy. And it wouldn't be Lionel Messi.

Given Neymar's preference for playing on the left side of a front three, a position vacated by David Villa, then either Pedro Rodriguez or Alexis Sanchez would be the one to miss out.

Where Tata Martino showed his class was by turning that potential negative situation into a positive.

Being in direct competition for most of the season has brought the best out of the Spaniard and the Chilean, and once the Brazilian was injured, we saw exactly why he never needed to be purchased in the first instance.

Both Rodriguez and Sanchez are now level on 12 La Liga goals. More than anyone else in the side. Yes even Messi.

We saw again tonight how well they work individually and together. Quick, incisive, dangerous.

Both could've been on the score sheet long before they eventually registered in the 54th and 60th minutes. But for the woodwork and the effervescent Willy Caballero, Barca might have been five goals to the good before half time.

Although either player can play the central role and allow Messi to drift dangerously, both seem more comfortable in out wide.

Sanchez the bull, strong and direct on the right, and the more lithe Pedro—your everyday Speedy Gonzales—on the opposite flank.

Indeed, it is the Spaniard's game that most resembles that of Neymar and not just because they plough the same furrow.

Happier to come in onto his right foot, the Spaniard has a better passing accuracy (86 percent) than his contemporary (84 percent) and has scored 13 in all competitions compared to Neymar's 10, according to

Defensively, the Spaniard has also won more tackles (1.1 to 0.9). 

Whilst Sanchez's game is all about raw power, we've seen a player of no little skill this season and, thanks to Martino, a confidence in every game that was missing for a large part of last season.

His goal return is just reward for the hard work and all-round excellence he his displayed throughout this campaign.

Messi-dependence was an oft-used phrase throughout last season but, thanks in no small part to both Rodriguez and Sanchez, that's now become a thing of the past. Tim Stannard of FourFourTwo agrees.

Sandro Rosell might still have a job today if he had bothered to look at what was under the bonnet before opting for a new model. 


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