The most interesting aspect about the duo formed in the Barcelona attack with the arrival of Neymar is how will it affect Lionel Messi; as a galvanizing effect, pushing the Argentine to new heights, if that’s even possible, or actually become something that holds him back and limits his ability and influence on the pitch?
More likely than not, Messi will score less than he has before. Neymar isn’t some sort of one-touch striker who feeds off what others create for him. While in Barcelona the work of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Mess himself and those on the wings (Pedro, Alexis) provides plenty of setup work for goals and chances, Neymar loves having the ball at his feet, both for setting up goals and beginning plays that end up with him being the center of attention.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Messi won’t be a better player for it. As it goes right now, teams focus a lot of their defensive effort on stopping Messi. Crowding him with three or four players who are always within a tackling distance of him. Against the lesser opponents and teams of the Spanish league it doesn’t help, but as we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons, there are enough teams around Europe capable of a defensive alignment that shuts him, and Barcelona as a team, down.
Neymar won’t play as a central forward or striker like the experts keep claiming Barcelona need in order to evolve from their current state of stagnation, which is only good enough to win local titles and not the big prize, the Champions League, once again. He’ll probably line up on the left, and probably won’t have to beg Martino to get in on most days. This should prevent the two players stepping on each others toes, as they both have very different comfort zones on the pitch.
Great players bring out the best in each other. I’m certain Neymar will be better alongside Leo and Leo will be better alongside Neymar. We’ll try to help him adapt, make him happy and get the best out of him to play like he has done for Brazil. (Xavi)
That’s not always the case. Some great players, in more than just the sport of soccer, can’t thrive with other dominant players next to them. Messi? That usually isn’t the case with him. Barcelona have had and have plenty of stars over the years, and it didn’t seem to hurt Messi’s ability to score and be dominant with and without the ball.
The question is how will Neymar react? There’s no question that at Santos it wasn’t even close when it came to competition over the limelight. The same goes for the Brazilian national team, as Neymar too center stage from the moment he was called up, and even if he doesn’t have a free role with the Selecao like he did with his club, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind who is the star and number one player on the pitch.
At Barcelona, at least initially, he’ll have to learn how to share, more than even before. His ability to adapt and adjust to a new role will determine if he’ll actually be competition to Lionel Messi, or the player who makes the best in the world even better.