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.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:41 PM EDT
From Alvarado to Zardes with Najar in between, Andy Edwards tells you what he saw in Frisco.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Next up in Group A is a Friday doubleheader in Foxborough, with Panama and Honduras opening the evening for the U.S. and Haiti.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT
Ruiz will join a potent attack with Islam Slimani and Fredy Montero.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
The idea of gold playing a big role is nice, although only the red separate this look from the Philadelphia Union.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:06 PM EDT
Duckens Moses Nazon, take a bow: Your 86th minute goal helped start the 2015 Gold Cup in style.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
Michael Bradley assumes the captain’s armband from Clint Dempsey and will earn cap No. 100 for his career in the Gold Cup.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
It’s certainly one of those press releases that makes you think, “Well, I had just assumed that happened, but thanks for confirming.”
Jul 7, 2015, 7:52 PM EDT
All this on the heels of the USWNT announced as the first female team to received a ticker tape parade down New York City’s Canyon of Heroes.
Jul 7, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
You get the feeling it’s impossible not to be motivated when Steven Gerrard is your teammate. Now toss in Robbie Keane.
Jul 7, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT
The last female to receive a ticker tape parade down that route was 1960 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins.
Jul 7, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT
Their “no-name” defense hasn’t allowed a goal in four matches, and Canada could surprise you this month.
United States midfielder Lauren Holiday announces plans to retire with Women’s World Cup title in hand
Jul 7, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
Lauren Holiday, 27, scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.
Lampard talks club, challenge, Gerrard: “For me this is as much of a challenge as Chelsea was, as Man City was” (video)
Jul 7, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
“For me this is as much of a challenge as Chelsea was, as Man City was,” Lampard said. “I play football to win.”
Jul 7, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
PST’s staff predict how the Gold Cup will play out as the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica clash to become CONCACAF champs.
Jul 7, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT
Altidore and Dempsey will lead the attack. But who else is in reserve?
Jul 7, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT
Is he in the top five of superstars to join North America’s top-flight since the DP rule was introduced?
Jul 7, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT
Will Yedlin start on the right? Have Bradley and Mix got the center locked down?
Jul 7, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
A man who’ll go down as one of the USMNT’s all-time greats hits 100 caps tonight. A few thoughts on Il Generale.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
Day 1 of the 2015 Gold Cup is here, as the U.S. starts its title defense with a showdown in Texas.
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