Since FC Barcelona acquired Neymar in June, it seems like the entire football world is talking about the little Brazilian. And rightfully so. With his amazing performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup-leading Brazil to winning the tournament and being named Player of the Tournament-Neymar has everyone talking.
It feels like everyone is saying, "I can't wait to see Neymar and Lionel Messi together on the same team!" I can't either! But let's keep it real for a second: there are three forwards that are going to play on Barça, not just Messi and Neymar.
For me, I am just as interested in how Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez are going to perform in 2013-14 as the Messi-Neymar combination. Yes, all eyes will be on Messi and Neymar, but this team needs more goal-scoring and end "Messidependencia", and that's where (hopefully) the right-wing position of Pedro and/or Alexis will step up along with Neymar.
FYI: Cristian Tello stays at the left-wing position, thus he is not included in this conversation about Barcelona's RW.
Alexis: Time for Consistency
Perhaps the player who is under the most amount of pressure to perform well next season is Alexis Sanchez-yes, even more than Neymar. The Chilean has had his moments, but for the most part, Alexis has been considered a bit of a disappointment since joining Barcelona in July 2011.
Towards the end of last season, Sanchez showed glimpses of hope, scoring goals and ending the season with eight goals in 29 Liga appearances. Sanchez recently told Sport.es that he has mixed feelings about last year. "I have mixed feelings about last season. I wanted to do more for the team, but was unable to really contribute something until the end of the season."
For 2013-14, Alexis said he wants to be a major player in FC Barcelona's winning ways. "My ambition for next season is to win trophies and to become an important player for the team, although that won't be easy. A great player has joined us with Neymar and I am not the only one who wants to play."
I'm glad to hear Alexis is ready to compete. But what we need to see is consistency, Alexis!
Alexis is a natural right-winger, so he will get his chance to be a part of the Neymar-Messi front line. But there is another player looking to be a part of the NeyMessi attacking line.
Pedro: Last Chance at Barça?
While Alexis does have pressure to live up to the expensive price tag Barça paid in 2011, Pedro Rodriguez, who can play both right and left-wing, might be the player that has the most pressure to have a big season from Barça fans' point of view.
Pedro was called up to the first squad in January 2008 by Pep Guardiola. Pedrito's breakout season was 2009-10, scoring 23 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions. He followed that up with 22 goals in 2010-11. But two sub-par seasons in a row-13 goals in '11-12, and 10 goals in '12-13-has led to many critics wondering if Pedro can still show some of that old magic of years past.
We know with the Spanish National Team he can. It seems like Pedro plays better with them than with Barcelona-which is mostly made up of Barça players-which makes it a bit frustrating for Culés.
What's wrong with Pedro over these past two seasons? Who knows. I feel like part of it is he overthinks when he has the ball. There have been too many times this past two seasons where he danced with the defender only to get the ball taken away or allowing the goalkeeper to run up and get the ball. Pedro needs to be a bit more like Alexis Sanchez-yes, I just said that-albeit Sanchez makes plenty of mistakes of his own. The thing about Alexis that you have to admire is that he is not afraid of taking the shot even with defenders circling around. Yes, Alexis does have his moments when he tries to dance around the defender, but he is quicker to the trigger when taking the shot than Pedro.
Pedro has the brains, but Alexis has the instincts. Messi and Neymar have both.
Conclusion: Time to shine
It seems that overall, if Alexis Sanchez has a bad season, it wouldn't be a surprise to most. Sanchez has been ridiculed by the media and fans, and it wouldn't come as a shock if he is sent packing next summer. But if Pedro doesn't have a good season, doesn't he deserve to be criticized just as much as Alexis? Is it because Pedro didn't cost a large amount of money? It's probably because Pedro is a "Masia product" (but at an older age of 17), and sentimentally, no one wants to see him leave.
But if Pedro has another bad season, personally, I don't see anything wrong with Barcelona shopping him around. Both Pedro and Alexis have now had two straight season of inconsistent and mediocre play. Football is still a business, and Pedro and/or Alexis cannot go three seasons of bad-to-mediocre play if this team is going to try and win another Champions League.
Mediocre performances might be good enough for some of these other teams in Europe, but at FC Barcelona, there's only so much-or little-time that can be given for that kind of play. I wouldn't be shocked if one had to go in 2014 due to inconsistency.
Alexis would be easier to part with, but he'd be considered a bust at FC Barcelona by most standards.
My heart would hate to see Pedro leave or sold, but my mind reminds my heart that football is a business.
Hopefully, both Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez will have solid seasons in 2013-14. You're not competing with each other boys, or even with Neymar. Your biggest foe is your self-doubt, your frustration, and your inconsistency. Time to step it up for the team's sake, and for your future with the club.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona