Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is the hottest property in world football, earning comparisons with Lionel Messi and Pele. The 20-year-old has been strongly linked with a move to the Catalan giants, with some speculating Barca have already agreed a downpayment with the attacker's current club, Santos. There is no doubt he has spell-binding tricks up his sleeve, with an impressive goal-to-game ratio to match (130 goals in 215 professional appearances), but the question remains; do Barcelona really need Neymar? And does Neymar need Barca?
I'm writing this in the wake of an eye-opening pre-Olympic warm up game, between Team GB and Brazil, in which Neymar scored from the spot, and assisted the other to give his country an easy 2-0 victory over an unorganized and inexperienced British team. Neymar showed flashes of brilliance, and glimpses of his not-so-brilliant 'pantomine villain' character, alongside countrymen Oscar, Hulk and Ganso. He wasn't at his scintillating best last night, but if he can replicate what he does with his Brazilian compatriots in Spain, he will quickly become one of the most feared attackers in world football.
In order to answer the before-mentioned question, we need to understand Neymar's best role, which is without doubt as a left-forward. His ability to come in from wide positions and terrorise full-backs, as well as his reluctance to track back, makes him the ideal candidate to - not replace - but provide another option in David Villa's absence. Villa is one of the greatest attackers in both his club's, and his country's history, but at the ripe old age of 30 he is nearing the end of his illustrious career. In my opinion, Neymar doesn't have the necessary teamwork skills to pull off Messi's false-nine role, and the Brazilian's tricks, pace and individual brilliance allow him to play in a much freer role out on the left. Some will argue that Barca already have Villa, Pedro and Sanchez to choose from and are just being greedy, but the fact remains that Neymar is one of the best young players on the planet, and Barcelona have always been his choice of destination. Simple.
So far, Neymar has mainly faced defenders in the Brazilian league, which in all due respect isn't the most competitive league in the world. At Barca, he would be up against some of the most well-drilled, organised and solid defenses in the world, however I believe he would thrive at this level, and with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi to link up with, both he and Barcelona be licking their lips at the prospect of European domination.
Neymar's main weakness, is, quite literally his weakness. His small stature restricts him from playing in a more central role, however by pushing him out wide, you allow him to drift and find space. He can then utilise his explosive pace against an often helpless defender. His lack of strength is less of a problem than it would be in the Premier League, and a certain Lionel Messi will testify that you don't need brute force to be a success in La Liga.
As for Neymar needing a European move, I'm sure there will be nobody who can deny that before you can truly judge him, you need to watch him perform at the highest level. And as Brazil 2014 looms, expectations are gathering for Neymar to shine. It is in my opinion that moving to Europe sooner rather than later will benefit him, as he will have a chance to adapt to his new surroundings. He has only ever known the Santos way, and gaining experience at one of the best teams in the world should stand him in better stead when it comes to facing the biggest and best players the game has to offer.
I for one, am looking forward to seeing Neymar flourish in the Blue and Red shirt so many before him have worn, but so few have ever truly become greats.