A 4-0 win for Barcelona and Neymar didn’t score a single goal? Something must be wrong, right? Not really. The Brazilian has 4 goals and 8 assists so far this season, looking perfectly happy to be the set up man for Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and others (including Lionel Messi when he isn’t injured), showing that his arrival wasn’t meant to be about forcing him into the main star role.
Not that Neymar has a problem with that. He’s been the promised one in Brazilian football for the last three or four years. Pressure comes in many forms, but it’s hard to believe that expectations in Barcelona rival those of the Brazilian public from Neymar every time he puts on the Selecao jersey. He was born to lead teams, and has been doing so on a different level since the age of 17. Filling in Messi’s shoes feels quite comfortable for him, even if it means executing the role in a very different way.
Barcelona did enjoy two penalty kicks in the first half to get them through a scrappy 45 minutes in which Granada players were busy bruising Neymar and Andres Iniesta in a manner that probably deserves more than just bookings, especially to Manuel Iturra, who should have seen a red card even before the end of the first half. The second part of the game was more like traditional Barcelona, answering critics about style problems, and even giving Pedro the chance to score in a season that hasn’t been going his way so far.
The match spoke volumes of the disparity in the La Liga, which isn’t anything new. Granada, an 8th place team coming to the Camp Nou and not getting a single shot at goal before garbage time kicked in. That’s how far Barcelona and Real Madrid are from the rest of the league, for better and worse. It’s not really Barca’s problems, who don’t let the distractions or injuries get in the way, even if it means playing without the best player in the world.
For finishing, there’s Alexis Sanchez, scoring 8 goals in 10 matches so far this season. For the rest, there’s Neymar. He might not be the genius passer Messi can be when he drops to the midfield, but he has other attributes to make up for that, like his dribbling skills that are becoming more and more apparent after the shyness of the opening weeks has evaporated. It’s hard for him to find goal-scoring chances with teams concentrating on him so much, but he’s a good enough player to make this an advantage for his team.
Life goes on for Barcelona, with or without Messi. Most of the La Liga can’t keep up with them, regardless of the classic style or the “modern” Martion schemes that are just as effective, with the team still avoiding their first defeat this season. Taking a wider, more Macro look at things, it still might not be enough to overthrow Bayern as European rulers at this point, but Barcelona couldn’t have hoped for a better start – both from Neymar and from the team when it comes to results.