Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, commonly known as Neymar, is one of football’s most sought-after up and coming players. Recently Neymar made a transfer decision between two of La Liga’s most competitive sides, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The off-the-field battle saw young Neymar choose La Liga’s defending champions, Barcelona.
The question is not, however, whether he made the right decision between La Liga’s biggest rivals, so much as it is: “Will he be able to keep up with, arguably, the most competitive team in modern football?”
Some have said that Neymar’s transfer from Santos, a Brasileiro club, to Barcelona, a La Liga club, may have been too big a bite for his quixotic mouth. These people say that the level of soccer produced in the Brazilian league is amatuer in comparison to Spain’s powerhouse. According to FIFA league rankings, however, there is little between the two. Germany maintains its position as the best league in the world, just in front of England’s Barclay’s Premier League. Here then, in third, we find Spain’s La Liga. The Brazilian league is not far behind in 5th position, just behind Italy’s Serie A. Perhaps this jump from an average Brazilian team, who hasn’t won a league title since 2004, to La Liga’s defening champions is too much for his inexperienced feet. But it is more likely that the transfer will be a managable alteration to his play.
Now that Neymar is at a world class club, he will be expected to play like a world class player. And seeing as he is a forward, this means goals. But can he match his attacking predecessors and teammates in the goal tally? At Santos last year for the 2012 season Neymar had a 0.37 goal scoring ratio with 14 goals in 38 games. The season before that he scored 13 with a ratio that was slightly worse. Altertnatively, Lionel Messi, Neymar’s new teammate, finished the 2012-2013 season with 46 goals in 38 games, and 50 the season before that. That’s a ratio of 1.21 and 1.32, respectively. But let’s be realistic here. Messi is arguably the best player that has ever lived. Surely we cannot compare Neymar to him. So let’s look at some of the previous players Barcelona brought in to play forward
David Villa played at Barcelona for three seasons. Although he did not appear in every game, he was effective every season. In his 2010/2011 season he scored 18 goals in 34 games played. In the 2011/2012 season he suffered with an injury and started only eight games, scoring five goals in all appearences. And in his last season at Barcelona he scored 10 goals with 17 starts and 11 substitutions. Consequently, his goal-scoring ratio was 0.53, 0.33, 0.36, respectivley. It was after this season that he was transferred from Barcelona to Athletico Madrid. Neymar’s 0.37 ratio is slightly better than Villa’s last season at Barcelona.
Zlatan was a similar story. He played for Barcelona in their 2009/2010 season. In the entire La Liga season he started 23 games and was a substitute in six. Of all his appearances he scored 16 goals, giving him a ratio of 0.55. This, however, was not sufficient for Barcelona who shipping him off to A.C Milan upon the season’s end.
Thierry Henry was known as “The King” at Arsenal, with his multiple golden boot awards. Barcelona did not hesitate in signing him. And he did not disappoint. In his first season he got 12 goals in 30 games. He then boosted this total to 19 in 30 games in the 2008/2009 season. In his last season at Barcelona he scored only four goals in 21 games, and therewith came his transfer papers. He now plays for the New York Red Bulls.
There seems to be a pattern among Barcelona’s management and the forwards they sign: quick in, quick out. Every single one of these players managed an above 0.5 goal/game ratio at some point, while Neymar is yet to play a season with an above 0.5 goal/game ratio. Granted, he is young, and yes, he has much potential. Will he be able to keep up with the La Liga? Without doubt. Will he impress Barcelona enough to stay? The numbers say, no.
My prediction: Three substandard seasons at Barcelona, and then a controversial transfer to Real Madrid