Neymar never replaced by Dembélé and Coutinho
In his first two seasons at Barcelona, the now-PSG player had an impact on the team that his compatriot and French teammate dream of.
While it is true that Neymar Jr's hypothetical, and rather complicated, return to the Camp Nou is controversial among a large section of the club's fanbase, his numbers from his spell at FC Barcelona should not be ignored.
Yes, he abandoned them for a wealthy admirer in Paris, which hurt to the core, but 186 official games across four seasons saw the Brazilian bring joy in 105 goals and 76 assists. A consistent entertainer with an end product: the idea of forgiveness must be considered.
Neymar > Coutinho and Dembélé
In his first two Seasons, Neymar scored 54 goals and provided 25 more for his teammates, who would gratefully take advantage of the space his skill and creativity opened up. Notably the first of those seasons only saw a return of 15 goals. Taking Philippe Coutinho (a season and a half) and Ousmane Dembélé together, they have contributed 43 goals and 29 assists.
It was immediately clear that Barça needed to replace their lost star with two players, knowing just how much a talent he was, and using the 222 million euros splashed out what could become over 300 million. They needed goals replenished, of course, but the focus Neymar gave to supoorting Messi and Suárez's goal tallies was also a consideration, the latter reaching 40 in LaLiga 2015/16.
Messi casts a long shadow
His final campaign, the fourth, was somewhat confusing and saw him disappear after his memorable performance against PSG. That night he shone, but it was the iconic image of Messi as the hero that helped him decide to leave, vacating himself, he believed, from the enormous shadow of the small Argentine. The void that he left was huge.
In sporting and morale terms, his influence on the game, his ability to carry the Barça flag when Messi was injured for two months at the start of the 2015-16 season, and lead the team to a 0-4 Bernabeu win, is far beyond what either Coutinho or Dembélé have even hinted at in their time thus far. There is no doubt that Neymar has burnt a number of bridges with those that bleed blaugrana...but the question now is if they are willing to rebuild them. If they do, they may get ot relive some of those memorable moments.
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