Maybe it was about the players showing their new manager they don’t care if he didn’t come from “within”, or maybe it was about Lionel Messi showing Neymar how it’s done at Barcelona, which means trying to score and finish off the match as early as possible.
In a 7-0 win over Levante that taught us about Barcelona, well, being pretty similar to how they’ve been since the beginning of the Guardiola era, and about the Spanish La Liga remaining in the same top-heavy alignment it’s been for so many years and won’t change until the TV money is shared a little bit more fairly.
The two things the Barcelona fans wanted to see? Lionel Messi, who is going to get a little bit more rest than ever before this season, which means no longer playing 90 minutes of every match. There’s really no need when you have Neymar as part of the group.
And Neymar? It seems like Martino is bringing him along slowly. He still has some weight to put on after losing around 7 kilos over the offseason due to surgery, but it also seems like the Brazilian isn’t trying to force his arrival upon the rest of the team. He’s blending very well in the pass-and-move system, and is still holding himself back when it comes to individual talent and dribbling, although once Messi was taken off the pitch, he did dare a bit more.
And it seems like one of the more important things this season at Barcelona – everyone knowing their place. The arrival of a star like Neymar, even if he hasn’t done anything yet in European football, can unsettle a system. The fact that early on he doesn’t seem to be too troubled by ego and goals is important, and maybe the most important thing for Barcelona as they go forward.
The centre back problem? For once, Barcelona had no problem hiding their defensive problems. Javier Mascherano had the freedom to leave the defense time after time and intercept passes before Levante even got into the Barcelona half. When Mascherano has the freedom to play like a defensive midfielder, he’s one of the best in the world. When he’s busy marking and chasing strikers, that is when the problems begin.
Pedro and Alexis Sanchez were the ones who led the pressure that hardly gave Levante a chance to breathe or move the ball. It seems that their frustrating season from last year is a thing of the past, as both found themselves on the scoring sheet early on, although it remains to be seen how much a rotation with Neymar will affect their playing time this season.
Messi is, well, just as he’s always been. Scoring two goals (one of them off a penalty kick) and looking dangerous every time he touched the ball before leaving the match after 71 minutes, which is going to be a more common sight this season. This season won’t be the one in which he slows down or suddenly loses that hunger to find his name highlighted on the scoreboard twice every match.