The range of expectations for Neymar is hugely varied. Some think he has the potential to become better then Messi while others think he is a glorified YouTube trickster. If you have watched Neymar play recently it is clear he is a step above his club teammates and looks ready to take the next step in the footballing ladder and move to a European club.
Currently the destination is till unknown with different rumours circulating every week such as Barça paying €25 million and Real Madrid offering him a €10 million a year contract, putting him in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. But for the purpose of this article let's presume he will switch to the newly-crowned Spanish champions and analyse where he will fit into this team.
We will start with looking at the player's history. Neymar joined Santos' youth team in 2003 before making the switch to the first team in 2009 and the young age of 17. His debut came against Oeste on the 7th of March 2009 and a week later the Brazilian scored his first goal for the senior side. Neymar went on to finish the season with a respectable tally of 14 goals in 48 games.
The 2010 season opened with Neymar's five goals in the 8-1 thrashing of Guarani and was enough to get the attentions of some European clubs. West Ham United reportedly had a £12 million bid rejected while Chelsea also had a bid turned down, rumoured to be near £20 million. The season also marked the start of Neymar's marketability rise as Santos sold 5% of all future transfer fees to Terceira Estrela Investimentos S.A.
Neymar has now completed five seasons at the Brazilian club with his father stating Neymar plans to move to Europe after the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Although many Brazilian fans are eager for Neymar to gain European experience before the finals in the hope it will enhance his playing ability and give Brazil the best chance of winning the World Cup on home soil.
At only 21, Neymar has already earned 32 caps for the international side and scored 20 goals in the progress. While also earning a number of individual trophies including multiple Best Forward of Campeonato Paulista and a FIFA Puskás Award
One aspect that Neymar is currently better at Messi is his marketability. Neymar is the world's most marketable athlete and pipped the Argentine to first place. The list compiled by SoccerPro magazine ranked Messi second with Cristiano Ronaldo the only other footballer to rank in the top ten.
Neymar's preferred position is as a second striker but at Barça it is likely he will play one either wing most likely the left side of which is the most comfortable. Santos' allow Neymar to float while it is likely that at Barça he will will have to show more positional strictness as to not get in the way of Messi. It can be noted in the way David Villa plays, playing predominately playing on the wing and dropping into the centre when Messi is occupying the midfield.
Neymar will also have to be very defensively disciplined much more so then he is at Santos. WIth the attack-minded Jordi Alba playing behind Neymar, the Brazilian will have to limit his attacks. A reoccurring theme of the 2012-13 season was Barça's weakness to counterattacks and Vilanova can't afford to be brining in players who will weaken his defence, even if they are potentially one of the best players of the planet.
Work ethic will also be a huge factor in Neymar's success. Barcelona is renowned for having a incredibly high team work ethic, this in theory ensures a player always has at least two other plays to pass to and the team attacks and defends as a unit. Neymar will need to rise to this level to make sure he isn't left out of the majority of plays. I've already mentioned his need to cover Alba but he will also need to ensure he is using his space effectively and not getting in the way of other players such as Messi, Iniesta or Xavi. Finding the right balance between attacking, defending and using space effectively all must be learned by Neymar if he is to succeed at Barcelona.
Another aspect for Neymar is he must accept not being the star of the club. Messi is firmly the superstar of the club and he remains grounded as do the rest of the team, if not they are quickly shown the door. Examples including Ibrahimović and Ronaldinho. Going from the posterboy of Brazil to a member of a team will be a tough step for Neymar and it will be interesting to see how he handles the transition.
Dani Alves will be able to mentor the starlet on how to curb your ego while club captain Xavi, Puyol and Iniesta will ensure he knows the values of the club and make sure he always puts the club first. I am unsure if Neymar will be a success at Barcelona if he does move or whether he will become an expensive mistake for the Catalans. Either way it will be fascinating to see the most hyped player of all time finally make his move.