Why Neymar Will Go on and Become a Barcelona Legend

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJuly 20, 2015

Neymar has shown the maturity and skill required to become a major player in years to come at Barcelona.
Neymar has shown the maturity and skill required to become a major player in years to come at Barcelona.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Neymar may well have surprised a few people with his performances for Barcelona during the last campaign.

Indeed, 2014/15 could certainly be said to be Neymar's breakout year in Blaugrana after a disappointing opening season.

Alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, the Brazilian was one of the main components of Barca's second treble-winning season.

Where once he was a reticent bystander, his confidence and eye for goal returned to such an extent that he was second only to Messi in goalscoring terms.

With 10 goals in the Champions League including in both quarter finals, both semi finals and the final, he finished level with Messi as the leading goalscorer in the competition. The first time that two players from the same side reached double figures.

Those 10 were part of a 39 goal haul overall. Aside from Messi, only Ronaldo "O Fenomeno" Nazario has been in the same ball park for Barca in recent years. 

Yes, Neymar now inhabits an area reserved for the very best. The elite of European football. At just 23 years of age, the wunderkind has the world at his extremely talented feet.

There are aspects of his game that require improvement, and it will happen in due course. Yellow cards aplenty and most for dissent should be addressed quickly. That's just nit-picking, however.

Playing for FC Barcelona brings a certain amount of pressure and, with it, responsibility.

Neymar had responsibility at Santos where he was so often the talisman, but Barca is a different ball park altogether. Professional at all times, off of the pitch just as much as on it.

The huge amount of sponsor requirements that come with being one of the world's best football players, dealing with the massed throng of media after each and every game and press conference. Training twice a day and matches. Not to mention international requirements, too.

But it's clear to see that as of this moment, Neymar feels completely at ease with it all and is taking everything in his stride. 

Although legal proceedings against former president Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu concerning the machinations of his transfer fee are still in abeyance, the player hasn't allowed that to affect his game at all.

Proceedings still await Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu over their part in the Neymar transfer saga.
Proceedings still await Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu over their part in the Neymar transfer saga.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

That too shows a remarkable mental strength and will be of huge benefit to player and club, as he continues his journey in Blaugrana. Setting a gold standard for others to aspire to will be within his remit.

If there is one thing that he quickly learned after that fairly tepid first season, it was maturity on the football pitch. To dispense with the play-acting or the over elaborate flicks and tricks.

Yes, there are still instances of the same, but not to the degree we saw when he was playing in the Brasileiro. Barca have educated him, and he is the better player for it. Much better.

His decision-making has been first class, and, more often than not, Neymar has made the right decisions during games, often to win a particular match.

At his best, when running directly at defences, he knows that opponents run a huge risk by trying to bring him down. Like the best bullfighters from the region in the past, he will tempt and tease them with the ball, and then with a matadorial body swerve, he is gone. Ole!

The scholar will eventually become the teacher, and Neymar has no better example to follow than Messi. Neymar can perhaps achieve something close to the Argentinian, maybe even surpass him in certain areas in time.

It's worth noting that in goalscoring terms, per Thomas Hautmann of Fox Soccer, at 23 years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo had scored 107 goals in his senior club career and 20 at international level.

Neymar has morethan double the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age.
Neymar has morethan double the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

When reaching the same age earlier this year, Neymar's numbers were already 219 club goals and 42 for Brazil.

You'd be hard-pressed to disagree with anyone who suggests that things can only get better in that regard for Neymar, because the 39 he scored last season were the result of a decent work ethic and a solid integration with Messi and Suarez.

His game isn't just about goals, however. The joy when providing a chance or assist is obvious. 

He's playing alongside two team-mates who are completely on his wavelength and with whom he has built up magnificent professional and personal relationships.

When you consider the number of new signings over the years who have been unable to work the Barca system to any great degree—and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one such—it's worth dwelling on just how natural a fit Neymar has become to the team and how hard he has worked to achieve the same.

If Neymar carries on working hard, there is no reason to think that he will not become the main component of a future Barca.
If Neymar carries on working hard, there is no reason to think that he will not become the main component of a future Barca.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Lest we forget that if 27 years of age is still considered the marker for a football player's "peak," then the Brazilian still has four more years of learning and development before reaching that point. Frightening when put into context.

By that time, the elder two of the trio will be the wrong side of 30, and Neymar will, one might assume, be the kingpin by that stage.

Barca have a rich history of Brazilian talent peppering their ranks, but Neymar could theoretically trump them all if his current trajectory continues.

His role in the team may change or develop and his importance increases. But as he's shown already, he is more than ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

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