Neymar’s world-record transfer to Paris Saint-German saw the dissolution of the much-talked about ‘MSN’ trio of Lionel Messi, Luiz Suarez and Neymar and whilst assessing the impact of Neymar’s departure on the Barcelona front line is certainly a tricky task, it goes without saying that the Catalan giants will miss the Brazilian’s flair and creativity. Neymar scored 68 goals in 123 games for Barcelona in a 4-year spell but only managed 13 goals in 30 games last campaign in La Liga and moved for pastures new in the summer, with many pundits suggesting that Neymar grew tired of Messi dominating the headlines and desired to play at a club where he he was the main man. Whilst Messi is a player of undoubted quality, it has often been said that he is only as good as the team-mates surrounding and supplying him and it will be interesting to see whether Neymar’s departure is ultimately a help or a hindrance in the Argentinean’s never-ending contest against Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned the world’s best player.
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Did Neymar’s Arrival Change the Way Barcelona Play?
It could be argued that Neymar’s more individualistic style saw the team almost abandon their famed ‘tika taka’ style of total football. Barcelona’s success under now Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was based on a high possession game, focussing on slow build-up play and collective midfield domination. The Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu certainly seems to subscribe to this view, stating in an interview with Sport-English that new coach Ernesto Valverde is a manager who “believes in the Barca model” and intimated that the break-up of the Messi, Suarez and Neymar trio could be seen as a positive step due to the fact the team had become overly reliant on the front three. Whilst this could be a valid contention on the surface, it would be hard to argue that Barcelona have become a worse team since the departure of Neymar and the more cynical football fans would argue that these are the words of a president trying to cut his loses and put a positive spin on losing a player who is undoubtedly one of the world’s most talented footballers.
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How Will Neymar’s Departure affect Lionel Messi?
An interesting article by The Telegraph from a few years ago crunched the numbers behind the trio and found that Neymar was by far the lowest assist maker at the time of the study, with Messi assisting Neymar far more than anyone else in the 2014/2015 season whilst the Brazilian failed to replicate the same sort of service to either Messi or Suarez, which perhaps serves to back up the claims of selfishness often levelled at Neymar. Whilst Messi leads Cristiano Ronaldo 5 wins to 4 in the Ballon d’Or stakes, the Argentinean has only won the award once since the arrival of Neymar to Barcelona back in 2013. Neymar even went as far to publicly back Ronaldo for the award last year in an interview as explained in this article by Metro and with Ronaldo looking almost certain to win the award again in 2017, Lionel Messi will be desperate to get his hands on the award again as soon as possible. The fact that Neymar left Barcelona for a world-record fee also further serves to deflect attention away from Messi, owing to the complicated and drawn-out nature of the affair. As explained in this article over at the Betway blog, players’ agents often hold many cards in any modern-day deal and the Neymar saga was no different, culminating in one of the most complex and widely reported transfers in the history of football. Now the dust has settled and Neymar is a PSG player, it could be argued that the attention will once again be on Lionel Messi and this seems to be the way the little Argentinean wizard likes it.
The Onus is Still on Lionel Messi to Deliver
Irrespective of the ins and outs of Barcelona, it is reasonable to argue that Cristiano Ronaldo’s form is the sole reason for his apparent recent dominance over Lionel Messi, especially in the Ballon d’Or arena. Along with historically retaining the Champions League with Real Madrid last year, the Portuguese forward also won a major trophy with his native Portugal in the shape of the 2016 European Championships – a feat that Lionel Messi is yet to achieve. It remains to be seen what impact Neymar’s apparent replacement Ousmane Dembele has on Barcelona and whether Neymar’s departure will adversely affect Lionel Messi but ultimately, the Argentinean has already cemented his place in footballing history and still possesses the ability the eclipse Ronaldo on all fronts- whether this happens or not is down to Lionel Messi and no-one else.