For the first time since his arrival, Neymar got to play in a match with Lionel Messi, as the two spent 16 minutes on the pitch together. The question regarding the identity of the third forward that will play next to them, Pedro Rodriguez or Alexis Sanchez, has yet to be sorted.
Beating Santos 8-0 wasn’t exactly something to learn from about Barcelona next season. However, it wasn’t just the first time Messi & Neymar played next to each other in Barcelona uniform. It was also the first time in this preseason we saw the Barcelona side very close to its strongest.
Javier Mascherano shouldn’t be playing as a centre back partner next to Gerard Pique. It’s been over two years since Barcelona won the Champions League for the second time, with everyone knowing that something has to be done about their defensive situation, and it still hasn’t been fixed. There is still some time, but it doesn’t look like Barcelona are actually moving forward in that front. Mascherano as the quick fix, a Carles Puyol who might finally be too old to fill the role in the proper way.
The rest? It never felt like Barcelona needed to change the personnel, just something in the system. Bringing in Neymar isn’t exactly a bad idea, but there’s something more than individual talent that’s going to bring them back to European supremacy, and even win the La Liga title again, with Real Madrid looking like a team that should be taken a lot more seriously than in last season.
The battle of the third forward isn’t over yet. Both Pedro and Alexis looked quite impressive in the win over Santos, and in any case, there isn’t just one answer to who will be lining up on the right side of the attack. With such a long season ahead of them as usual, both players will get plenty of chances to show their worth, which didn’t work that well last season on an individual level for both of them.
Barcelona won’t be signing another player for that position. With Tello also waiting for his chance after signing a contract extension, Barcelona will as always rely on their immense lineup talent, and the potential of their youth prospects to carry the load of filling in when necessary. Pedro and Alexis are both incredible players to have as your third attacking option – a luxury maybe only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have in terms of overall quality.
Is it enough to find themselves in the Champions League final for the first time since 2011? The identity of that forward isn’t the answer. Barcelona’s real issues are about their defensive coverage and ability to shake off team that close down Lionel Messi and force them to come up with more creative answers. In that regard, the competition between Alexis and Pedro for the third spot in the forward line of Barcelona doesn’t matter. Martion’s ability to balance the up & down cycles of Jordi Alba and Dani Alves seems much more important.