In a World Cup year, international matches with Brazil & Argentina might mean more to Lionel Messi and Neymar than their success with Barcelona, but it doesn’t change the fact that after a month of getting used to each other, it’s expected of them to start showing a lot more of quality football together, and also on an individual level when it comes to Neymar.
Messi has done what he’s always done – scored when he played. With five goals in the first two matches in the La Liga, it’s hard to see anything changing for the Argentine. It’s Neymar who has to adapt to a new league, a new team and a new style, while carrying the heavy burden of his price tag and the expectations of being the player that brings back Barcelona to the top of European football.
So far, we haven’t seen much from Neymar. He hasn’t tried to do much as well. He has scored once, in the Super Cup. It was the away goal that gave Barcelona the first trophy of the season, but nothing much in the league. He has played a total of 143 minutes through the first three matches, coming in as a substitute on the first two. He has one assist to his name; a pass to Lionel Messi in the 3-2 win over Valencia. That needs to start happening a lot more.
For now, Martino has limited Neymar’s involvement in matches and in the actual build up. They’re still waiting for him to gain back the kilograms he has lost, but there’s not doubt that he’s looking better. The next stage is starting to get him out of the tactical mold, and start seeing some individual creativity.
This isn’t going to be the Neymar from Santos, who puts one foot on the ball, waiting on the flank, waiting for a defender to challenge him so he can produce a dazzling dribbling sequence or humiliating trick. For now he’s doing the work of a regular winger, including helping out on defense, just like Pedro or Alexis do, but that’s going to change soon.
Unlike the Bale-Ronaldo duo in Madrid, Neymar and Messi don’t step over one another’s toes. Messi is in the middle, maybe with a slight drift to the right. Neymar comes in from the left. It should be the basis of a wonderful relationship, even if the two might never be the best of friends, on the football pitch.
After about a month of getting used to his new life and team, it’s time for Neymar to take some initiative. It’s time for Martino to let some of the reins go, and allow the Brazilian to feel a bit more comfortable in the attack, and a big part of it is starting to link up with Lionel Messi on a more regular basis. Neymar was brought here to take the scoring load off of Messi and make Barcelona little bit less predictable. Being just another player who looks for the Argentine to score isn’t going to do much help in the long run.