There aren’t many – if any – better strike forces in world football than Barcelona’s triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. They often steamroll teams by themselves and as a holy trinity they are almost unstoppable.
But when you look at them individually and what they have contributed themselves this season, one of them hasn’t exactly been irreplaceable.
That’s right; Neymar.
Now, let’s get one thing clear before we carry on; Neymar is clearly a very good player and at 24 years of age he will develop into one of the world’s very best, but he’s not on the same level as his two esteemed attacking colleagues yet.
Neymar’s dream… pic.twitter.com/lHM1SXQBvS
— Football Stuff (@FootbalIStuff) November 28, 2016
Messi, of course, needs absolutely no introduction; the man is out of this world and time and time again he has carried Barca over the line by himself, even this season, with the 2-1 defeat of Sevilla a prime example of the Argentinian leading the way.
Suarez hasn’t been quite as effective as usual in his last few outings, but he still has eight league goals and has saved the Catalans several times this term.
Neymar, though, is steadily finding himself in that situation most of the best players do earlier on in their career, where they struggle to make a telling impact consistently against the better sides.
His four league goals have been split between Leganes, Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo, while three of his five assists came against Alaves and Deportivo La Coruna. Only at Sevilla and Real Sociedad has he made a telling contribution of that variety, and in both matches he was generally on the periphery.
The Brazilian’s assist for Messi in their 3-1 Champions League defeat to Manchester City showcased his excellent vision, but other than that he was somewhat muted and failed to really catch the eye.
Everyone knows what he is capable of and his tally of four goals and five assists is certainly nothing to be sniffed at, but he should only be held in as high regard as the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when consistently making the difference.
A run towards the end of last season saw him do little in games against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad, three matches which Barca lost.
It’s all well and good scoring against the likes of Sporting Gijon and Real Betis, someone has to. But when Neymar starts devouring the very best opponents almost by himself, only then can he be spoken of as being anywhere near the standard of Messi and Ronaldo.