Nov 13, 2013, 2:25 PM EDT
With the summer signing having already scored four goals and contributed a whopping seven assists in eleven matches since joining Barcelona, Neymar is to face his toughest test yet.
The weight of the soccer world will be thrust upon his 21-year-old shoulders, a load so heavy even the $76 million kid has plenty of doubters still.
Lionel Messi, the four-time reigning Ballon d’Or winner, is facing a long-term injury absence on the bench – possibly until the new year – leaving Neymar to fill the biggest boots the sport has to offer.
The Brazilian sensation has formed a wonderful strike trio up front between himself, Messi, and Alexi Sanchez. Six of Neymar’s seven assists this season have gone to either Messi or Sanchez.
But now, it will be up to Neymar to slide into Messi’s spot up front for a full six to eight weeks. His teammate and countryman Dani Alves says he was signed – nay, born – for situations exactly like the one he’s currently facing.
“Neymar is always ready,” said Alves. “He knows how important he is for Barcelona. He is aware that he was signed for things like this. With Messi’s injury, someone must take on this role, and Neymar is ready. For his name, and his qualities, he will be this player. I am sure he will give a positive response.”
Having played mostly on the left wing this year, Neymar will be given much less space up front in the middle by opposing defenses. No longer does the opposition have to accommodate for the world’s best player making slicing runs through their midfield and back line, affording space to the wingers in an attempt to patch up any weaknesses in the middle.
The Brazilian will rely heavily on teammates Cesc Fabregas, Andre Iniesta, and of course Sanchez to feed him the ball, but Neymar will need to create his own space rather than exploit that which has already given to him.
Taking the pressure off slightly is the fact that Messi’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time. With Barcelona already having qualified for the Champions League knockout phase and a soft patch in the La Liga schedule upcoming, Neymar will have opportunities to shine. But with that also comes the knowledge that any slip-ups afford naysayers even more reason to criticize.
With the international break upon us, Neymar has time to sit on his new-found role. However, come November 23rd when Barcelona returns to action against La Liga foes Granada at the Camp Nou, all eyes will be on the 21-year-old, whether he likes it or not.
From the sound of it, he likes it.
Oct 31, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT
Despite losing six of their first nine matches, Bayern Munich executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes Borussia Dortmund will turn around their play.
Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The Ivorian striker has been sidelined for more than 12 months with a knee injury.
Oct 31, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The German international has only made three appearances off the bench for Real Madrid as rumors of a move to the Premier League continue to swirl.
Oct 31, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Some good news and some bad news for Gunners fans as Jack Wilshere has injured his knee while Olivier Giroud is “miles ahead of schedule” after ankle surgery.
Oct 31, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
The Manchester United legend has called out the crosstown rivals, saying City has a “touch of arrogance.”
Oct 31, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
The young striker has seven goals in eleven appearances for Spurs, but is yet to earn a Premier League start this season.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
No, this is not a Halloween joke.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Aston Villa have lost five straight matches and haven’t scored a goal since September 13th.
Oct 31, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT
Watch the Blues host the R’s Saturday at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Take a look at the rest of the fixtures ahead for Yanks in Europe by heading inside.
Oct 31, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, FC Dallas, L.A. Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake or DC United: Who’s been better?
Oct 31, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
“This is the biggest derby that I shall manage,” the Manchester United boss told reporters on Friday.
Oct 31, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT
Onyewu has played at QPR, Malaga, Sporting CP, Twente, AC Milan, Newcastle, Standard Liege, La Louviere and Metz since he left Clemson.
Oct 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Where and how to watch every game during Week 10 of the PL.
Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
City and United tangle at 8am ET on NBCSN this Sunday, and the absence of Silva will be a bonus for Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils.
Diego Costa will be available to Chelsea this weekend, says Jose Mourinho; QPR and Blues to tangle on NBCSN
Oct 31, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
Chelsea and QPR kick-off at 11am ET on NBCSN this Saturday.
Oct 31, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.
Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
We are a quarter of the way through the season. Scary, right? Anyway, here’s our latest rankings of power.
Oct 31, 2014, 10:21 AM EDT
“Some weren’t in the European finals, some weren’t even domestic champions,” said Jesus. Others were, and weren’t nominated. We’ll give out some props.
Oct 31, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Suddenly-hot Newcastle United put their three-match win streak on the line when they host Liverpool on Saturday morning.
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