Gareth Bale vs. Neymar: Who Has Had the Better Season so Far?
La Liga welcomed two major signings at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
The most highly anticipated was Brazilian wunderkind Neymar, who had run rings around his opponents in a Santos shirt and become the subject of a bidding war between the world's biggest clubs. Barcelona eventually secured his signature, for an amount that is apparently up for debate.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, reprised their habit of breaking the world transfer record to bring Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu for the princely sum of £86 million.
The high-profile stars faced on another on Wednesday evening in the Copa del Rey Final, and the Spanish press are virtually unanimous in their verdict that the Welshman won what Sport (in Spanish) are calling "the millionaire duel."
Speaking about Bale's memorable winning goal, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports: "The goal was incredible. I don't think I've seen anything like it. It looked like the ball was going out and he was under pressure, he ran off the pitch to keep it in, it was just amazing."
But which player has had the better debut La Liga season so far? Let's find out...
*Statistics via ESPNFC.com unless otherwise noted.
Gareth Bale league goals: 14
Gareth Bale goals in all competitions: 20
Neymar league goals: 9
Neymar goals in all competitions: 15
Both players have featured in 25 league games this season, but Bale is more than 50 percent more prolific than his Brazilian counterpart. The Welshman has also scored five Champions League goals—one more than Neymar.
Neymar is responsible for 9.8 per cent of Barca's 92 league goals, while Bale has contributed 14.9 per cent of Los Blancos' 94 strikes.
Winner: Gareth Bale
Statistics via ESPNFC.com
Gareth Bale league assists: 12
Gareth Bale assists in all competitions: 15
Neymar league assists: 8
Neymar assists in all competitions: 11
Bale also appears to be more generous than his well-coiffured opponent, providing 50 percent more assists in the league. Clearly, he is an effective arm of the "BBC" (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) strike force.
Winner: Gareth Bale
Shots Per Game
Gareth Bale shots in La Liga: 81
Gareth Bale shots in all competitions: 109
Neymar shots in La Liga: 68
Neymar shots in all competitions: 108
Neymar has been more effective in the Champions League, taking 10 more shots (37 compared to 27) but he started in three additional games. The Brazilian is also more accurate, putting 44 percent of his shots on target, compared to Gareth Bale's 36 per cent.
However, Bale is slightly more dangerous on the attack: He has taken one more shot in all competitions, having played in one less game. (Neymar has played 40 times so far this season, Bale has featured 29 times.)
Winner: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale successful passes in La Liga: 500 (75.9 per cent success)
Gareth Bale successful passes in the Champions League: 189 (81.8 per cent success)
Neymar successful passes in La Liga: 797 (84.3 per cent success)
Neymar successful passes in the Champions League: 361 (86.4 per cent successful)
Neymar may make fewer assists than Bale, but he appears to be more of a team player outside the final third.
The Brazilian has made almost 300 more passes than Bale in the league and nearly double the amount of the Madrid man's tally in European competition. He also has a higher pass completion rate in both competitions.
Statistics via WhoScored.com
Neymar can barely go a few hours without sharing a picture of himself on his Instagram feed. This might not make him better at social media, but it certainly makes him more prolific.
The Brazilian also has four times as many Instagram followers (4.4 million compared to 1 million) and three times as many Twitter followers (10.3 million over 2.9 million).
Plus, the Barcelona forward doesn't have cynical sponsorship-driven conversations with footballs on his feeds.
No offence to Bale's lovely partner, Emma Rhys Jones, but Neymar appears to be living the millionaire footballer lifestyle when it comes to romantic trysts.
Discounting the last two categories of this comparison—which are just a bit of fun and bear no reflection on each players' respective season—it seems that Gareth Bale has been the more effective player in 2013/14 so far.
The Welshman has scored more goals, provided more assists and taken more chances than his Barcelona opponent.
Considering the fact that their transfer fees may not have been too far apart, it is Real Madrid who appear to have made the smarter investment.