Upon his arrival at Barcelona, Neymar declared that there was plenty of interest in him, but in the end, he decided to follow his heart and join the Catalan giants.
Despite his hefty transfer fee, it was clear to see that Neymar had the character and talent to not let this impact his displays. Neymar went on to become a crucial member in arguably the world’s most feared attacking front three at the time. Sure, the link up and understanding between Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar was special, but the Brazilian was equally capable of producing unthinkable brilliance that would leave defences simply unsure of what had happened.
Neymar left Barça for PSG back in 2017 in a world record £200m deal, with the hope of getting out of Messi’s shadow and going on to win the Ballon d’Or. Now persistently being linked with a return, Neymar is still yet to have put himself in contention to win the coveted award.
The forward’s figures at PSG speak for themselves, but it was at Barcelona where Neymar was regularly showing the footballing world why people were considering him to be the man to take over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Seven years after being presented as a new Barcelona player, we take a look back at some of his very finest moments…
The first goal is crucial for any new attacker, to settle nerves and give them the confidence they need. Neymar’s first saw him announce himself on a very large stage. Facing off against Copa del Rey champions Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa, Barça found themselves 1-0 down after David Villa’s opener.
It appeared as though Atletico were going to see out the game and would have a 1-0 lead to protect in the second leg. This was especially the case after Lionel Messi was forced off at half time in the first leg through injury.
However, Neymar stepped up and delivered by scoring a vital goal to make it 1-1. A moment of brilliance? A free kick? Dazzling skill?
Nope. Instead, the Brazilian climbed highest at the back post to head the ball home powerfully. With the second leg finishing 0-0, Neymar’s sublime header proved to be the winner. Scoring the vital goal to help your new club win a piece of silverware isn’t a bad way to make a positive impression.
In the first Clasico of the 2013/14 season, it was Neymar who grabbed all the headlines as he ran the show in his first derby game against Real Madrid.
The Brazilian netted the opener, cutting in from the left hand side before cooly passing the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal. He continued to look a real threat each time he received the ball, but it wasn’t until the 78th minute before Barça were able to double their lead.
But what a goal it was.
As the ball came into Neymar on the halfway line, he used his chest to bring the ball down before taking one touch and spotting a slight gap in the Real Madrid backline. Without hesitating, Neymar played an inch perfect pass through to Alexis Sanchez, who executed a stunning chip perfectly from 20 yards out.
Los Blancos pulled one goal back in injury time, but Neymar’s goal and assist proved decisive. In a game where two big money signings (Gareth Bale and Neymar) were looking to steal the headlines, it was Neymar who was unplayable on the night.
After a promising start to life at Barcelona, fans began to place added pressure on Neymar to raise his game further for the 2014/15 season – and he delivered.
He recorded his first hat-trick for the club against Granada in September 2014. His first had an element of luck about it, his shot taking a big deflection on its way in. But it was the awareness and desire to nip in and win the ball initially that was so impressive.
Neymar’s second saw him finish off the rebound after the ball came towards him in the middle of the box. Simple as you like for a player of his standards.
He showed his composure and arrogance to complete the hat-trick, taking one touch as the ball came into him inside the area before looking up and giving the goalkeeper ‘the eyes’ and sliding the ball in at the near post.
Calm as you like, and Neymar went on to prove that season that he could be counted on as a goalscorer as well, grabbing 39 in all competitions.
The first leg of Barcelona’s semi-final clash with Bayern Munich will be remembered – and rightly so – for one man’s performance. No, not Neymar, but Lionel Messi.
The Argentine scored two breathtaking goals to give his side a commanding lead, but it was the MSN trio that were a constant threat all evening. Neymar was sharp, direct and he was rewarded for his fine performance as he was sent through on goal in the final seconds of the game. He calmly slotted the ball home to make it 3-0 and place Barça in a very strong position.
Bayern fought back in the second leg, going 1-0 up before Neymar combined with his fellow forwards to great effect, scoring twice in under 15 minutes to put Barça back in control.
They went on to lose the game 3-2 to Bayern, but Neymar’s three goals over the two legs were enough to see Barça through to the final. La Blaugrana won the final, with Neymar scoring the third goal against Juventus.
It was clear that Neymar was a player that could be relied upon on the biggest of stages.
This performance was all about the skill and brilliance of Neymar.
The Rayo Vallecano defence hadn’t a clue how to deal with him. If they came in close to mark him tightly, he would spin away and race in behind the defence, but if they dropped off and allowed him space, he would simply play a piercing pass.
Neymar’s first two goals came direct from the penalty spot, after he was brought down twice. Using his skill, speed and awareness, he darted into the box and as he cruised past an opponent, the defender had no choice but to bring him down. It was a similar scenario for the second.
To complete the hat-trick, Neymar rifled into the roof of the net after the goalkeeper parried a shot. And he grabbed a fourth with a tap in to round off his display.
This goal was something special.
Neymar and Suarez gave Barça a comfortable lead over Villarreal, and the pair then combined to score the Brazilian’s best goal in his Barcelona career up to that point.
Starting off the move, Neymar gave the ball to Suarez before making a darting run through the centre of the pitch. Suarez continued to drive with the ball down the line before looking up and playing a delightful pass into the path of Neymar, who was now on the edge of the box.
With still so much work to do and facing away from goal, Neymar flicked the ball over his head, leaving the defender unaware of where it had gone, before turning and firing low into the corner of the goal.
They don’t come much better than that.
Messi, Suarez and Neymar were arguably the most lethal forward line in world football of the past decade, and Roma learned this the hard way as the Catalan giants put six past the Italian outfit.
While goals and assists figures are important, the footballing world often fails to properly appreciate the beauty of the build-up play leading to a goal as time progresses. In the game against Roma, the headlines were dominated by Messi and Suarez, who both grabbed two goals each.
But Neymar was outstanding on the evening, having a hand in all six goals that went in. Dictating play, he was at the heart of every single attack. It was a truly rampant display and perhaps his performance on the evening would have received greater praise had he managed to score the penalty he missed.
On this night, the footballing world learned that Neymar can produce the extraordinary – the unthinkable.
Down 4-0 from the first leg, barely anyone gave Barça a chance of progressing. But a flying start saw them race into a 3-0 lead after 50 minutes, with Suarez and Messi grabbing the goals as well as an own goal from Layvin Kurzawa.
But as Edinson Cavani’s strike rippled the net just after the hour mark, Camp Nou fell silent.
All hope had seemingly been lost, until Neymar stepped up with two minutes remaining and scored a stunning free-kick from way out on the left, bending it perfectly into the top corner.
The hosts refused to give in and were awarded a penalty in stoppage time when Suarez was brought down. Up stepped Neymar and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and found the net.
They couldn’t, could they?
When a team has a player of Neymar’s calibre, they will always have a chance. With the last attack of the game and every Barça player forward, Neymar took his time and found himself an angle before chipping the ball in behind the PSG defence, allowing Sergi Roberto to nip in and slide the ball home.
One of the greatest comebacks, led by Neymar.
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