x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Neymar's addition at Barcelona may lead to minuses for Messi's Argentina

Lionel Messi will benefit from Neymar's presence at Barcelona, but the tactics and skills the Brazilian learns will also help him stand in the way of Messi's Argentina at the World Cup, reports Andy Mitten.

Lionel Messi, left, may benefit from Neymar at Barcelona, but Brazil benefits more from Neymar learning valuable tactics and skills with the Catalans.
Lionel Messi, left, may benefit from Neymar at Barcelona, but Brazil benefits more from Neymar learning valuable tactics and skills with the Catalans.

When Johan Cruyff warned this week of the dangers of a ship with two captains, he was referring to Barcelona's purchase of the striker Neymar.

Following a year of tedious speculation, the Catalans finally have the 21-year-old Brazilian tied to a five-year contract. After his tearful farewell from Santos, he will join in time for next season.

Lionel Messi gave his tacit approval to Neymar earlier in the season and, given that he is the other captain Cruyff is referring to, what Messi thinks matters.

What Cruyff thinks also matters.

He has long held power without a position in Barcelona and is courted by almost every successful club president and coach, all of them Cruyffistas.

His newspaper column is read by everyone and few dare disagree with him because he knows more about playing and managing than anyone else in Catalonia.

Cruyff's worry is that Camp Nou may not be a big enough stage for the talents of both Messi and Neymar, who will be introduced Monday. Football is a team game, but Messi enjoys being the undisputed star and does not always take to new signings with enthusiasm.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa have both had their moments of frustration with Messi's power at a club, who since 2008 have built their team around the world's best player.

Neymar's position is different: he is not a central striker, but a fleet attacker who tends to play on the left, often drawing defenders if they try to mark him closely. That frees up space for teammates.

Messi, 25, would thrive with the extra acreage the presence of Neymar could provide, and their teammates will benefit from the attention defenders will give two of the world's finest talents.

It could be the most mesmerising attack in world football and lessen the case of the Messidependencia protagonists - those who criticise Barca's dependency on Messi.

Neymar can improve in Europe, playing against some of the best teams in the world rather than the regional Sao Paulo championship that would have been his preparation for the 2014 World Cup in his homeland.

And perhaps that is why Messi should really be nervous. A better Neymar not only means a better Barcelona, but a superior Brazil and a greater obstacle to Messi achieving his one remaining football dream - winning the World Cup with Argentina.

Barcelona fans are heeding Cruyff's caution, but they are also excited, understandably, at the prospect of Messi and Neymar leading their attack.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE