Luis Enrique, Diego Simeone Talk Neymar Ahead of Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2016

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Neymar JR of FC Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at Camp Nou on September 13, 2016 in Barcelona. Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Getty Images).  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone have both defended Neymar after he was criticised for showboating against Leganes on Saturday. 

With the Blaugrana coasting to an eventual 5-1 victory, late in the second half Neymar delved into his box of tricks in an attempt to dazzle opposition defenders, although the actions appeared to anger his modest opponents; former Barcelona star Michael Laudrup (h/t Samuel Marsden of ESPN FC) also said on beIN Sports the striker was being insulting in his actions.

However, Enrique believes the way the Brazilian plays—flicks, tricks and all—brings joy to the supporters.

“Neymar has his own style, which I think is spectacular for football,” said the manager in his press conference ahead of Barcelona’s meeting with Atletico on Wednesday, per Grup 14. “He understands football like that and we enjoy him here. There are more players who have their own style. Everyone can interpret it as he wants.”

Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique (R) gives instructions to Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 13, 2016. / AFP / LLUIS GENE        (
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

“I like how Neymar plays,” Enrique continued. “At this point no one can claim to be surprised by him. I invite him to keep entertaining us.”

The Barca also stated what Neymar does is within the laws of the the game. “Maybe we should focus more on what the rules don't allow,” he added.

Sport’s Rik Sharma agreed, as he suggested the opponents should stay calm when Neymar starts to showboat:

Simeone, who will be tasked with nullifying the influence of Neymar on Wednesday, offered a similar opinion, suggesting that when Barca really need him, the Brazilian typically makes a tangible contribution.

“He has his way of playing and that's just the way he is,” Simeone said, per Jorge Garcia of AS “… He likes having fun, he sings, he dances…then he'll tear you to shreds. People can continue criticising him but the lad's always going to respond by doing his talking where he needs to—out there on the pitch.”

(L-R) Gabi of Club Atletico de Madrid, coach Diego Simeone of Club Atletico de Madrid, Neymar of FC Barcelona, Gabi of Club Atletico de Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final match between  Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona on April 13, 2016
VI-Images/Getty Images

Indeed, Neymar has a reputation for producing audacious pieces of skill, but he also possesses a ruthlessness in the final third that makes him such a special footballer. When the two intertwine, you get incredible moments like this:

Neymar certainly looks refreshed after helping Brazil to Olympic gold this summer, and the swagger he showcased on Saturday prompted memories of the devastating form he captured 12 months ago. As we can see here courtesy of Squawka Football, he, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have slotted back into their attacking groove:

Of course, it’s vital that players of their calibre have respect for the opposition and there can be a fine line between showboating and provoking, especially when the gulf in class is so wide, as it was in the case of Leganes.

But this is Neymar’s natural game. And when these remarkable pieces of play come off, they set the soccer stratosphere abuzz.