Neymar joins Barcelona

The fact that Barcelona, for whom above all else the lack of defensive cover was brutally exposed towards the end of the season, have gone and signed an expensive striker brings back worrying memories of the Joan Gaspart era, when they used to buy forwards like Marc Overmars, Javier Saviola, Geovanni and Simao Sabrosa, almost because Barcelona had to make an annual prestige signing from abroad. It was quite clear as they started to tail off in spring this year with Carles Puyol injured and ageing, and Gerard Pique inconsistent and lacking leadership, that Barcelona really needed another top-class centre-half, but the players they did use to replace them were either inexperienced – Bartra – or not really defenders, like Javier Mascherano and Alex Song. One of the riskier things that Guardiola tried as manager was to put such players in the team, knowing that the system covered their lack of positional experience, so that their existing strengths could be utilised. With him gone and the system creaking due to the health and form issues of Messi, Xavi and David Villa, the absence of defensive power beyond Puyol and Pique was laid bare. Neymar is a formidable signing, but not one that appears to be driven by a coach’s vision or the result of a collective need. Rather, it’s the sort of boardroom acquisition that Barcelona were fond of making back when they weren’t very consistent. It will be curious to see whether this singular talent, all hair and jinking feet, can be the new Ronaldinho or the new Saviola.

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