Neymar’s shooting samba star at Barcelona
Having been the most wanted footballer on the planet for a number of years, Neymar was always going to be following in illustrious footsteps wherever he ended up in Europe.
He was, however, well versed in treading such a path having graduated through the youth ranks at Santos â€“ drawing obvious comparisons with the legend that is Pele.
Taking the decision to link up with Barcelona was a bold one, but an admirable one.Â Rather than be the undoubted star of the show outside of Catalunya, Neymar chose to thrust himself under the brightest of spotlights alongside Lionel Messi.Â He would also have been aware of the records of fellow Brazilians when agreeing to move to the Nou Camp over the Santiago Bernabeu, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.
Barcelonaâ€™s history is littered with South American stars, with their side often moving to a Samba beat.Â Neymar is the latest in a long line of high-profile forwards from his part of the world to represent the Blaugrana, but the weight of expectation does not appear to be too heavy on his shoulders.Â His first season in La Liga was always going to be a transitional one, as he adjusted to life in new surroundings, with new team-mates and with the clock ticking down to a home World Cup in which he would carry the hopes of a football-mad nation.
Que Deus nos abenÃ§oe e nos proteja ????? pic.twitter.com/peP7rRpOPa
â€” Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) April 21, 2015
To his credit, Neymar was steady without being unspectacular in 2013/14, but this season has seen him show his true colours and become an integral part of Barcaâ€™s fearsome â€˜MSNâ€™ frontline alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.Â His value to the cause was further highlighted on Tuesday as his brace against Paris St Germain helped to rubberstamp a safe passage to the last four of the Champions League.
The 23-year-old has now hit the 30-goal mark for the season, with those efforts arriving in just 41 appearances.Â To stand those achievements up against some of BarÃ§aâ€™s former Brazilian heroes, Neymar has now bettered Ronaldinhoâ€™s best return during his hugely successful five seasons in Spain â€“ with the two-time World Player of the Year peaking at 23 in 2005/06.
Neymar is also fast closing on iconic figures such as Romario (32 in 1993/94) and Rivaldo (36 in 2000/01), with there still at least nine games to come in Barcelonaâ€™s season.
He still has some way to go in order to catch arguably the finest player of the lot, though, with Ronaldo â€“ the original and best at the peak of his powers â€“ finding the target a remarkable 47 times during his one and only season with the club back in 1996/97.
Neymar is, however, a different kind of forward to his legendary countryman and is sharing talismanic responsibilities with fellow South Americans that hold a similar global standing.Â It is shaping up to be some season, though, with it possible that he could help to fire Barcelona to a domestic double and continental success before turning his attention to the Copa America â€“ an event he will be hoping to illuminate.
Sources: bbc.co.uk / goal.com