There wasn’t anything too special about the debut of Neymar for Barcelona, getting only 11 minutes that didn’t really amount to anything. Lionel Messi had a bit more time to show his skills and usual scoring ability, but to the disappointment of many, the two didn’t actually play together.
Messi was substituted in the 76th minute, coming off after scoring the equalizing goal in the 57th minute and adding a neat piece of trickery earlier in the first half. Neymar came on a few minutes after Messi was substituted, and so the Polish fans and the millions of intrigued individuals around the world didn’t get to see the two superstars share the field for the same team for the first time ever.
In terms of meaning anything, it doesn’t. Barcelona played with very few players from what should be a usual lineup – Messi, Alexis Sanchez and that was about it. Except for Neymar, on the bench, there wasn’t even another senior player from the Spanish national team or something similar. A 2-2 draw might have been a cause for celebration in Poland, but in truth, there wasn’t anything too impressive about it.
So to see Neymar and Messi cooperating on the pitch will simply we’ll all have to be a little more patient. In what should be the most interesting duo to watch playing together this season Messi should occupy the more central role in the usual front three, while Neymar plays the same way he does for the Brazilian national team, which is have his pole position on the left side of the pitch, although Gerardo Martino, not being brought up from inside the club, might make more changes than anyone expected to see in both personnel hierarchy and formations.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Neymar blends showboating with practical contribution. In his 11 odd minutes on the pitch he managed to draw four fouls and even get a player booked, adding some oohs from the crowd with a cheeky back-heel pass down the left wing. In Brazil, at a certain point, he would enjoy somewhat of a free role and spend plenty of minutes tormenting defenders; stuck on one of the wings, moving his legs above the ball, taunting defenders to come at him.
It resulted in a lot of bruises to his legs, and there’s a good chance that in Europe a similar attitude will be used to curb his enthusiasm just a bit, possibly as somewhat of a welcoming sign.
As we all know, friendly matches mean nothing but to create cohesion for a team and give players a chance to familiarize themselves with new teammates and a new system. It’s too soon to tell just how many initial struggles Neymar will have as he begins his European career. Luckily for him, every moment he’s on the pitch he shows he has the individual skill to get over the early setbacks, hoping that in time he won’t need to use it as often to make himself useful.