Neymar's 20 Best and Worst Moments for Barcelona

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2014

Neymar's 20 Best and Worst Moments for Barcelona

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    Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

    Seven months after joining Barcelona amid a swell of publicity and the Confederations Cup last summer, Brazilian forward Neymar already has a catalogue of achievements to his name.

    While not exactly all of them are for the very best of reasons, he has certainly shown that he will be a headliner for the Catalan club in one way or another.

    Here are the top 20 moments of Neymar's short time as a Barcelona player so far—the good and the bad.

    Statistics are courtesy of Squawka, WhoScored? and transfermarkt.

20. Barcelona Debut

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    Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press

    Of course, simply taking to the field for the first time as a player for his new club was a pretty big deal for the 21-year-old.

    Neymar took to the field in the blue and red shirt in a preseason friendly against Gdansk, playing the final quarter of an hour or so as a substitute replacement for Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez.

    The game, not important in itself but notable as a landmark, ended 2-2.

19. 56,000 Fans to Say Hello

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    How popular should a massive money signing be from day one?

    Pretty popular, seems to be the answer. Barcelona opened their doors to more than 50,000 supporters to greet Neymar's arrival at the club in June, as per Metro, watching him perform a few tricks on the pitch.

    Not a bad start to life in Europe.

18. First La Liga Start

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    Neymar might have been a massive money signing, but integrating him into the team after a summer tournament and with a winning team already in place was not easy.

    His first La Liga start for the club was actually his fifth competitive appearance, having already appeared off the bench in two league games and one Supercopa match, as well as starting the second leg of the same cup.

    As it turned out, Neymar claimed the assist for the third goal, with Messi making it 3-0 at the time—and that turned out to be the winner in a 3-2 victory.

17. Play-Acting vs. Celtic

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    While he was busy not scoring in the early stages of the Champions League, Neymar drew criticism from some parts for his role in a red card for Celtic's Scott Brown.

    Judge for yourself whether the card was warranted or whether Neymar made too much of the contact, but quite why managers with no vested interest in the game were compelled to offer quotes on the matter is up for debate too.

16. Initial Run of Assists

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Any forward loves to hit the ground running in terms of contributing to winning games after signing for a new club, and Neymar was good enough and lucky enough to do exactly that.

    Even though his first goal in La Liga didn't immediately arrive, he certainly proved himself capable of being a big part of the front line with a succession of assists—four in his first four starts, no less.

    Valencia, Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad all fell to his ability to carve out opportunities for his team-mates. As well as those four assists, he actually totalled 10 chances created for his team-mates in those games.

15. Dubious Penalty vs. AC Milan

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    Diving accusations will almost inevitably continue to follow Neymar for the time being, with a Champions League incident against AC Milan one such occasion.

    Going down under a challenge to win a penalty, Neymar was accused of falling too easily or indeed under no contact.

    Video replays appear inconclusive either way.

14. 1st Goal: Supercopa vs. Atletico Madrid

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    Neymar is noted for many talents—but heading is not usually one of them.

    It was something of a surprise, then, that his first goal for Barcelona came via a firm downward header, against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa.

13. Barren Run in Champions League

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    The goals in La Liga might have been going in, but the eyes of the wider football world might have been on Neymar's performances in more elite competition: namely, the UEFA Champions League.

    Despite starting all five of Barcelona's opening group stage games—and rattling off 20 shots in the process, an average of four per game—he was utterly unable to contribute to the goalscoring.

    That might have been particularly frustrating in the fifth game, away to Ajax, where Barcelona had eight shots, half of them were taken by Neymar—but he failed to score and Barca lost the game, 2-1.

12. 1st League Goal

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    As can be the case, things were getting a little frustrating for Neymar when, after a few league games, it wasn't quite happening for him in front of goal.

    Inevitably, when that first strike did come against Real Sociedad, it was a bungled, bundled-in attempt from close range—proving every commentator right over the past decade or so who recite the "he just needs one to go in off his knees or his backside" line.

    The goal came early on in the game to set Barca in front, before they went on to win 4-1.

11. Recent Injury

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    And so to the most recent of times, a bad injury which could have been considerably worse.

    Although Barcelona have now confirmed, via the club website, that the Brazilian forward will miss three to four weeks, initial fears were that Neymar could even miss the rest of the season and the summer World Cup in his native country.

    A sprain in his right ankle is serious enough that Neymar will miss several key games—but it could have been much worse.

10. Criticisms of Neymar's Transfer

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Even before he had kicked a ball for the Catalan club, there were already plenty of onlookers discussing whether Neymar's transfer was completely above board, morally if not legally.

    Recent reports, via ESPN, have indicated that the club paid around £34 million to the company owned by Neymar's parents as part of the transfer fee.

    DIS Esporte owned 40 percent of Neymar's registration rights and thus could demand a higher fee if the above figure is deemed to be part of the transfer cost, not just agent rights.

9. Run of 5 Goals in 8 League Games

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    As is often the case, one goal sparked into action a run of strikes which, while not exactly an every-game occurrence, certainly marked the best overall spell of Neymar's time at Barcelona so far.

    The Sociedad strike was followed up by one against Real Valladolid, another against Real Madrid, one at Real Betis and a brace at home to Villarreal.

    That was a run of five goals in just eight games after the initial duck was broken.

8. Covering for Messi

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    Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

    In the November and December period of matches taking in nine Barcelona games in all competitions, star forward Leo Messi missed out on the action as a result of a torn calf muscle.

    The burden of goals and attacking prowess fell on Neymar—and he ably stepped up to the mark.

    Without the superstar Argentine, Neymar led the line-playing centre-forward in a number of games and recorded a number of goals and assists during the period, including scoring in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

    He seemed somewhat freed from the responsibility of always looking to pass to Messi and was a rather large part of the excellent form which befell the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez over the same period.

7. Showboating with Effect

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    You buy a Neymar, you want to see some skill.

    Importantly, you want skill with end product. How's this, then?

6. Not Starting 2014 in the Team

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Given the form of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez of late, especially in front of goal, it's perhaps understandable that both are in the team on merit at present.

    However, after the restart in 2014, Neymar would have hoped to immediately play a big part before the return to fitness of Leo Messi.

    It hasn't happened yet—granted with only two games played—with Neymar featuring only for 34 minutes between the Elche and Atletico Madrid games.

    There's something of a five-way fight for three places in Barcelona's front line, and Neymar will have to bring a lot of end product to displace the others...after he returns from injury.

5. The Claims He Wouldn't Cut It

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Destined to flop. That was the kind of headline aimed Neymar's way when his move to Barcelona was confirmed, with more than one scathing report of his hype and megastar status intimating it was too much to expect that he could slot in seamlessly to Barcelona's team.

    They've pretty much been wrong so far.

4. Dribbles King

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    Fans of the forward want to see him displaying his best talents on a regular basis, and Neymar has always been associated with flamboyant on-the-ball skills.

    They'll be delighted, then, to see that Neymar is the third-highest player in La Liga by way of successful dribbles per game, averaging out at 3.2 each time he takes to the pitch.

    The two ahead of him are (of course) team-mate Leo Messi (4.2) and Granada's Yacine Brahimi (5.0).

3. Villarreal Brace

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    Missing Messi and playing a top-four candidate?

    That's when you need your big attacking signing to come up with the goods.

    Neymar put in a good all-round performance to lead the attack and scored twice in a 2-1 win. Perhaps his biggest solo, match-winning contribution at that point, with one exception.

2. Victory in El Clasico

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    If you happened to catch any of the build-up for El Clasico, it was basically Bale vs. Neymar this time aroundthe two big attacking signings and who would make the greater difference.

    With one goal, one assist, two chances created, three attempted take-ons and a higher-tempo approach to the game, it's pretty much fair to say that the Barcelona man won that particular battle.

    Neymar took his goal cooly and was, especially early on in the game, the biggest threat on the pitch.

1. Champions League Hat-Trick

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    That Champions League could not keep Neymar out indefinitely, and it was in the final group stage game that he chose to make his biggest statement.

    At home against Celtic, playing as centre-forward, Neymar ran riot as he hit his first Barcelona hat-trick, blitzing three goals in the 6-1 win.

    A close-range tap-in, a left-footed screamer and a piece of individual brilliance: from zero in five to three in six.