“We’re missing Leo in the last couple of games but we have other players who can make the difference. We have a lot of players with quality and Neymar is one of them. He steps up. He’s very important for us at the moment.” Using those words Thomas Vermaelen summed Barcelona’s situation this season and Neymar’s rise to stardom. The Brazilian forward has been involved in almost every play for Barcelona this season. He seems to have finally matured into the star he’s destined to be.
When Neymar was signed, he was deemed as Messi’s successor, as the star of the future. There was no immediate pressure put on his shoulders from the fans of his teams. Despite that, Neymar was never going to wait till Messi ages and steps down. The Brazilian who lead his national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup at the age of 22 decided to step in when his Argentinean team-mate picked up an injury.
In his first season, he scored 9 goals and assisted 13 others. In the second, he had improved drastically scoring 39 and assisting 7 as Barcelona won the treble. Now in his third season, he continues to improve with 11 goals and 6 assists already. He’s La Liga’s top goalscorer so far this season and he seems to be quite fresh after missing a few games at the start of the season due to injury. Last season he averaged 1.83 chances created per 90 minutes (a good record) but this year he’s averaging 3.35 chances created per 90 minutes in league play.
Last season, Neymar did not provide Luis Suarez with a single assist. This time around he’s provided him with plenty and the duo seem to have developed a great level of understanding between them. Neymar, individually is running, dribbling, passing and shooting. He’s been phenomenal. It’s quite bad for Barcelona that Messi will miss El Clasico but this is softened by Neymar’s recent form. Does it mount more pressure on him?
Since Messi got injured, Barcelona have scored 14 times in the league; Suárez and Neymar scored them all, seven goals each. Meanwhile their partners in attack Munir and Sandro haven’t scored in well over a year. They won’t be expected to score against Real Madrid either so it’s down to the Brazilian and the Uruguayan. The pressure on Neymar’s shoulders is positive pressure. He’s been having an exceptional season and nothing is better than capping it off with a good performance in El Clasico. Los Blancos have barely conceded in La Liga this season and they’ve been keeping plenty of clean sheets. This game is definitely Neymar’s, he has to live up to the challenge and try to penetrate the Madrid defense by either scoring or creating chances for his team-mate, Luis Suarez.
36 goals in only 46 in 2015 for Barcelona is an impressive record for a player of Neymar’s age yet all the goals could mean nothing if he doesn’t make the difference against Madrid. Neymar has changed in Messi’s absence. He has taken on responsibility to lead the side and without his latest efford Barcelona wouldn’t be up on top in La Liga alongside Real Madrid. His goals against BATE last night mean much more than three points, they mean that he’s determined to become the world’s best.