A Complete Analysis of Neymar for Barcelona vs. Neymar for Brazil

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 24, 2015

Neymar's style at club level is now more aligned to his international performances.
Neymar's style at club level is now more aligned to his international performances.Siu Wu/Associated Press

When Neymar arrived in Barcelona amid a cacophony of sound and a kaleidoscope of colour at Camp Nou, column inches were devoted to whether Brazil's wunderkind would be able to tailor his game to fit Lionel Messi's.

The general consensus at the time was that his signing was a mistake because his playing style was too individualistic.

Ex-Blaugrana player and manager Johan Cruyff, who most certainly informs opinion where the Catalans are concerned, was one of the loudest voices to oppose the signing.

Cruyff told Marca (via David Kent of the Daily Mail):

No, I wouldn't have signed Neymar.

With Neymar on board, I would have planned for the possibility of selling Messi - and some would agree with that, others not.

You are talking about a team, its players, the things around it ... There are too many things at stake. That's why it's so difficult to manage such a top class squad.

It's like the free kicks. Neymar is very good at taking them, and Messi has already shown he is. Who's going to take them?

Or the fact that Neymar and Barcelona are with Nike while Leo is with adidas. These are situations that could cause problems.

There was certainly a settling-in period needed during his debut La Liga season, but it was evident that Neymar was saving his best work for the Selecao.

Gazeta Esportiva's Aldo Junior spoke to Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail during World Cup 2014 and concluded at that juncture that yes, Neymar was playing better for Brazil.

As it turns out, however, the fears of Cruyff and others were completely unfounded.  

Fast-forward nine months, since receiving a fractured vertebrae after a clash with Colombia's Juan Zuniga, and there's not too much of a distinction between the Neymar of club and country.

Let's take a look at the detail...


After a disappointing season for goals scored in the last campaign, Neymar came out firing on all cylinders, scoring in eight of Barcelona's opening 11 games in 2014/15, per WhoScored.com.

His goal return by the end of the first El Clasico of the season in October was already two goals more than he had managed throughout the entirety of 2013/14.

Aside from a recent drop-off over the last few games, which has seen just two goals in the last seven outings, Neymar has been steadily amassing a decent haul.

His 26 goals in 36 club games in all competitions is only bettered by Lionel Messi.

On the international stage, Brazil have played six games so far this season, and Neymar has seven goals—including four against Japan—per Sky Sports.

A haul of 33 goals in 42 games is a record anyone would be proud of.


Neymar has become a chief provider of assists for Lionel Messi.
Neymar has become a chief provider of assists for Lionel Messi.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Another area where Neymar has excelled at club level has been as a provider, mainly to Suarez and Messi.

There have been games when, rather than score himself, he has put the chance on a plate for a teammate, which hasn't previously been in Neymar's makeup.

Think of the Sevilla game when the Brazilian provided Messi with his record-breaking La Liga goal as the prime example.

For Barca this season his stats in this regard have been excellent. Four assists may not seem like a lot but is bettered by only Messi and Suarez. With 26 key passes to boot, per Squawka, it's obvious that much of his all-round game has improved.

He sits proudly atop the tree for Brazil this season with 12 key passes and one assist, per Squawka.

Passing Accuracy

For a player of such evident quality, his pass-completion percentage is poor.

At Barca, just 79 percent of his 805 passes have found their target, per Squawka. Indeed, we saw from time to time during the match against Real Madrid how wasteful Neymar can be in this regard.

He hasn't improved this aspect of his game with the national team either. His 78 percent accuracy for his 121 passes for Brazil makes him one of the worst in the side.

He must do better.


This is an area in which Neymar excels for both club and country with 3.5 per game for Brazil and a huge 4.7 completed dribbles for Barca, per WhoScored.com.

With Neymar never happier than with the ball at this feet and space to run into, opponents leave the door ajar at their peril.

Tackling/Defensive work

Neymar has improved defensively.
Neymar has improved defensively.Alex Caparros/Getty Images

In all fairness, defensive responsibility has never really been Neymar's forte.

That said, it's noticeable how much extra work the Brazilian has put in in this regard over the course of this season at club level.

Luis Enrique, in an interview with GolTV (via Sky Sports) noted Neymar's contribution alongside those of Luis Suarez and Messi:

I think all three have shone throughout the whole season: in goals, assists, defensive work, movement.

It is impossible for all three to score a hat-trick every game. This is football not water polo or basketball.

While Squawka note just a single defensive action, suggesting an improvement should be made, there is no comparison between Neymar now and the player of last season who would sulk on the sidelines if he had lost possession.

Now, his first thought is to win back the ball and recycle possession, making him a much more useful exponent. 

Arguably for Brazil he's not used for the defensive side of his game, and Squawka's metrics show that he has done precisely nothing in a defensive capacity for the Selecao.

ProZone also note that Neymar is required to do more of the donkey work at club level.


The similarities between his role for club and country this season are many, and his movement for Barca has been much, much better than last year.

If we recall during his first few months of 2013/14 he was taking all before him on the international stage, driving at the heart of opposition defences from a more central midfield position, and invariably scoring or creating aplenty.

For Barca he was stationed wide out on the left, and only occasionally would he cut inside. The couple of times that he did so in the early stages of his Barca career he was decisive, scoring at Atletico Madrid in the Supercup and against Real Madrid in his first Clasico.

If we remind ourselves how he played during the past weekend's battle against Los Blancos, the runs he made tirelessly through the central areas in particular were reminiscent of his movement for Brazil.

Neymar's running against Real Madrid was tireless and direct but lacked composure.
Neymar's running against Real Madrid was tireless and direct but lacked composure.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Pacey, direct and penetrative, all Neymar lacked on the big occasion was a little bit of composure, and he was unusually wasteful in that regard against Real.

However, it is perhaps the maturity in his game for Barca now that has elevated him, unquestionably, to world-class status.

He has an appreciation of how his movement off the ball benefits the team as a whole and Suarez and Messi in particular; the nous to know when to pass, when to move and when to hang back.


There is no question that his role for the Brazilian national team is a more responsible post than his role at Barca.

Recently made captain of the Selecao, and readily accepted as the best player in Brazil, Neymar has the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders.

Dermot Corrigan of ESPN noted Brazil manager Dunga's comments on his new captain at a recent news conference:

It is not a surprise, but the statistics are there to show that when Neymar puts on the captain's armband, he takes a step forward.

He is a player who likes challenges. The more responsibility he has, the more he will develop. He is making history in European football.

There is a pressure to deliver at Barca, of course, thanks to a monstrous transfer fee as much as anything else. But it's nothing like the responsibility Neymar has to deal with when taking centre-stage for his country.


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