El Centrocampista

Where will Neymar fit into the new Barcelona?

Barcelona have announced the signing of Brazilian superstar Neymar, ending a protracted transfer saga surrounding the South American forward.  The attacker’s signature is the first of a number of new signings expected at Camp Nou this summer, and is a statement of intent that the Blaugrana intend to strengthen and rebuild.

At first sight, Neymar’s addition to the already star-studded Barca squad seems like an ideal match. The 21-year-old’s ability on the ball and proven goalscoring record, despite his tender age, rightly mean that he is one of the brightest prospects in the world game.

However, despite Neymar’s ability, the move will require him to alter a number of aspects of his game, and mindset, if he is to be a success in Catalunya.

Firstly he will need to get to grips with a completely alien and new environment, and make the transition from biggest fish in a small pond into just another superstar. No longer will he be the best player in the whole division – he isn’t the main man in his own team anymore. The attacker’s ego has at times played a part in his game, but if he is to be a success he must realise that he is not yet in the same league as Lionel Messi, and learn from the Ballon d’Or holder, rather than try to outshine him.

The style of play at Camp Nou will be totally different to that which he has become used to at Vila Belmiro. Tough opposition in La Liga will mean his individual shows of brilliance will be more fleeting, while the tiki-taka style of play at the club will mean that he must not try to beat opposition teams single-handedly, and instead fit into Barca’s passing ethos.

Despite this, the weight of expectation on Neymar’s shoulders will be astronomical. The Blaugrana faithful will herald the Brazilian as the man to get the side back to the days of Pep Guardiola’s almost unbeatable team, and will expect wonders from him from day one. Camp Nou has been the home of some of the top Brazilian attackers of the last generation – Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo – and Neymar will be expected to compare to, and surpass, his illustrious countrymen by the home support.

In Barca’s current bespoke 4-3-3 system, Neymar may also have to play in a new role. Messi’s position as the central figure in the side’s attack is likely to be maintained, and the Brazil international could well have to start from wide, similar to how Alexis Sanchez or Pedro fit into the current set-up. Whether Tito Vilanova will tinker with his tactics and formation slightly to accommodate the new man remains to be seen, but Neymar cannot expect to walk right into a number 10 role.

Despite these obstacles and the teething issues every player faces when they switch clubs, the transfer is a mouthwatering prospect. To partner Neymar with Messi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi, amongst others, looks like a match made in heaven. Barca’s already devastating forward line has been equipped with yet another weapon, and should Neymar find his feet quickly Barca could well get back to top form at home and on the continent.

Neymar’s acquisition will impact on the role of others next season. Messi will now no longer be looked to as the man to solely get the lion’s share of the goals, as the Brazilian will be expected to take some of the burden from the Argentine maestro. David Villa’s future looks increasingly doubtful after the purchase, with a move to England being touted. The likes of Sanchez, Pedro and Cristian Tello may also find opportunities more limited, while Fabregas may now be utilised from deep, rather than as one of the front three.

One thing is for sure; Neymar’s move to Barcelona is one that the world will have their eyes on. The Blaugrana’s attack will be revitalised with the new man’s inclusion, and if as expected they strengthen elsewhere, the Camp Nou outfit will take some stopping next season.

Gareth McKnight is the La Liga editor at Soccerlens.com.

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