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Why Neymar Is the 3rd-Best Player in the World on Current Form

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 11, 2015

Neymar has built a beatiful working relationship with Lionel Messi.
Neymar has built a beatiful working relationship with Lionel Messi.Alberto Saiz

Neymar really is enjoying himself at Barcelona during this campaign.

The Brazilian took a season or so to settle in to life in a new country and a new league, but since the beginning of the current campaign there really has been no stopping him.

His form has been so good that hardly anyone appears to be talking about an inflated transfer fee any longer.

Question marks were raised when Neymar was signed for Barca.
Question marks were raised when Neymar was signed for Barca.David Ramos/Getty Images

And the doom-mongering of 18 months ago, when the general consensus seemed to be that Barca didn't need a player who was too individualistic, has evaporated.

Per Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail, Barca legend Johan Cruyff was one of many voices to be heard telling all and sundry at the Laureus awards ceremony that signing the Brazilian was a mistake:

The problem that Barca have now is Neymar.

[...] When you already have the best player in the world, a player of just 21 years cannot be the big star – with 26 maybe but not at 21.

It is a shame because Neymar is a great player but if the situation continues like this things could go wrong.

[...] You cannot have two captains on one boat.

When Cruyff speaks, people listen. Perhaps many were informed by the Dutchman's comments rather than taking a look for themselves at what he brought to the party.

Certainly his first season in Blaugrana wasn't a roaring success, but neither was it the disaster that many had predicted.

After picking up what looked like an incredibly serious back injury at the World Cup in Brazil, Neymar arrived back to pre-season training fresh and raring to go.

And he hasn't really looked back.

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Fewest mins per goal in La Liga this season (5+ starts): Ronaldo (65.4), Messi (81.7), Neymar (95.5), Griezmann (108.4), Vietto (126.8)

Per WhoScored.com, in 29 appearances in all competitions (four as sub), Neymar has notched 26 goals and four assists.

That's some improvement over his total of 12 months ago—just nine goals per FCBarcelona.com.

Indeed, only Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo can claim to be playing better football than the Brazilian, and even the Portuguese would have to admit that Neymar has been in better form since the turn of the year.

Where once there was a reticence in possession and a tendency to stay as near to the touchline as possible and for as long as possible, now Neymar looks dangerous in every moment.

Squawka Football @Squawka

Most successful take-ons in La Liga in 2015: Lionel Messi (48) Neymar (41) Gareth Bale (30) http://t.co/r16rXHWRTF

He is an extremely willing front-runner who is putting in a decent shift in most games.

Indeed, his overall performance score, per Squawka, puts him second only to Messi at Barca this season. Compared to Ronaldo's Squawka stats, Neymar's are similarly impressive.

Watching the Blaugrana at this juncture, the Brazilian's partnership with Messi in particular is now bordering on the telepathic.

MisterCalvoChip @MisterCalvoChip

OJOALDATO Año 2015: Cristiano: 7 Goles, 3 Assists. Suárez: 8 Goles, 7 Assists. Neymar: 12 Goles, 1 Assist. Messi: 15 Goles, 11 Assist.

The evolution of Luis Suarez, since his FIFA-imposed sabbatical, has also helped Neymar no end, with the Uruguayan prepared to go to war in every game and sacrifice some of his own instincts in the process.

John Baines of Goal.com noted Cruyff's words back in October on the impact Suarez might have on Neymar's game, and the Dutchman has been proved correct in this aspect:

Perhaps the presence of Suarez will improve the connection between Messi and Neymar.

With Messi, sometimes you cannot score so you need to assist and he has the quality to develop. Last year the partnership did not work, so we will see what happens in the future.

Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects, however, is that Neymar has well and truly proved beyond doubt that he can play, and be hugely successful in, a Barca team with Messi in situ.

He has adapted his game to suit the Argentine and therefore Barcelona, and isn't quite the captain that the Dutchman originally suggested he would be.

An embattled Luis Enrique should take the credit for that, and with two goals against Villarreal to take the Catalans into the Copa del Rey final, we could yet see Neymar proving instrumental in bringing some silverware to Barca before season's end.

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