Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that Neymar Jr. was a huge part of one of Barcelona’s most successful years to date. The legendary ‘MSN’ trio ran rampant on the footballing pitches and Neymar and Lionel Messi together were a true joy to watch.
It has been years since we’ve last seen them dance together and they may never do it again, despite strong efforts from both sides. Still, with Barcelona’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain rapidly approaching, it’s only appropriate to relive some of the best moments these two superstars shared on the pitch.
So with that in mind, we’ve decided to choose three of the best games from this legendary duo and witness the magic one last time.
Let’s jump straight into it.
1. Barcelona 7-0 Celtic, UEFA Champions League, 2016
The 2017 Champions League run is a bitter-sweet one for Barcelona fans. While ultimately the Catalans couldn’t mount a proper challenge for the title, there were some glorious moments throughout the campaign, one of which is this incredible 7-0 routing of one of Scotland’s most historic teams.
Celtic are not an easy opponent, something Barcelona are quite familiar with (remember that 2-1 defeat, Culés?), but this was a true lesson in football for the Camp Nou visitors. And the best thing is, the 7-0 victory had both Messi’s and Neymar’s fingertips all over it.
The Argentine scored a hattrick while the Brazilian provided one more on the night but it was actually the combination between the two that was palpable throughout the clash. The goal for 2-0, in particular, is worth highlighting here.
Messi receives the ball just at the entrance into the final third and quickly relays it to Neymar who’s positioned in the left half-space. Upon deploying the pass, Leo immediately makes a darting run through the middle channel, only to get at the receiving end of Ney’s one-two combination around zone 14. But the action doesn’t stop there.
The Argentine waits a second to attract the Celtic defenders before sending another pass to Neymar who’s making a run into the box on the left side. The Brazilian receives the pass, controls it perfectly and then proceeds to first beat his man and then return the ball to Leo who’s waiting, completely unmarked, to slot it into the net.
It’s as easy as it gets for these two. Magical.
2. Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League, 2015
Yes, we know, we know, everyone remembers this game as the day when Messi ended Jérôme Boateng’s career. And of course, that was definitely one of the highlights of this incredible Champions League performance and just one of the many the 2015 campaign had on offer.
But let’s not forget Neymar also played a part in dismantling the Bavarian titans and once again, his ability to combine so well with Messi is what makes this clash another memorable exhibition by the duo.
Leo scored in minutes 77 and 80 while Neymar put the cherry on top for the 94th-minute nail in the coffin, assisted by the Argentine himself. And while this play was not as flashy as some of their other combinations, it just proved how they knew where to find each other and how to make use of their respective strengths.
It’s actually Luis Suárez, the third part of the legendary MSN, who starts the attack. Despite being taken down around the middle of the pitch, the Uruguayan successfully relays the ball to Messi who takes one touch to control it perfectly and sets himself up for a deadly through pass towards Barcelona’s winger with the second.
Neymar is already on the move and upon receiving the ball, he uses his pace to burst forward and put himself in a 1v1 situation against Manuel Neuer. While that is far from an ideal place and the German keeper has a knack of snuffing out these dangerous situations, Neymar was as lethal as they come.
The Brazilian fakes his first shot and uses the second attempt to slot the ball past the German and into the net for an easy, breezy 3-0 on the night.
There was no stopping them and Bayern were just one of many Europe’s best who couldn’t handle the heat of this legendary duo.
3. Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain, UEFA Champions League, 2017
Wednesday evening, 8 March 2017 was the night that will go down in history as one of the most legendary Remontadas the world of football has ever seen. The city of Barcelona registered a slight earthquake that day as the fans went into a frenzy celebrating and jumping around with joy following the Azulgranas’ victory over none other than Paris Saint-Germain.
So it is quite fitting to put this as the last and probably the most memorable Messi and Neymar shows. Everyone remembers Neymar’s cross into the box that found Sergi Roberto for the 6-1 and surely everyone remembers Messi jumping into the crowd, balancing himself on the fence, struggling not to get devoured by the beserk supporters.
It was a picture that graced the covers the next day, and sadly, probably the image that marked the end of Neymar’s career at Barcelona. The two worked well together to revive the team from the brink of death and both are to be hailed as the Catalans’ saviours.
But this game is Neymar’s biggest legacy at the club and it was on his shoulders that the team rose to the occasion, that much has to be said. Still, there were numerous moments of magic between this duo that made all of it possible so we can’t highlight a single goal or assist or even a piece of skill that defines the event.
That was Barcelona making a pact with the devil and winning the day. Unfortunately, it’s also the last time we saw them so dominant, direct and united. Shortly after, Juventus proved to be too much to handle and Neymar joined the team he helped dismantle completely.
The Brazilian is injured at the moment, so we don’t know whether he’ll feature at the Camp Nou next week. But regardless of that, he’s been a huge part of Barcelona’s modern history and whatever happens next and wherever his future lies, nothing will change that.
On Tuesday, or at the very latest on 10 March in the return leg, Leo and Ney will meet once more.
This time, however, as foes and not as teammates anymore.
Let the better man prevail.
A significant week in Barcelona for Lionel Messi’s future
It is a topic that gets the football world giddy. The fantasies of Lionel Messi playing in the Premier League, the formation of another star-studded front three alongside Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, and for the romantics, a return to Argentina is set in their hearts.
After the infamous events of the summer of 2020, now more than ever, the biggest legend of FC Barcelona looks closer than ever to leaving.
Many Barça fans feel that it could be a good thing that the six-time Ballon D’or winner leaves, bringing up the point that the Catalan side needs a hard restart next season and the idea of building a team around a 33-year-old does not seem logical, as it only benefits the near future.
This is a valid point and most likely comes from those who want not only the best for Barca but Messi as well, as Cúlers are not ignorant to the fact that the club cannot promise their beloved number ten the fifth Champions League trophy he craves in its current situation.
However, in an ideal world, Barça fans would want Messi to stay and win his fifth European Cup wearing Blaugrana and if that is to happen, the week that went by is the only decider on course for the club and player alike.
The Copa Del Rey comeback
In the interview with Jordi Évole on LaSexta last December, Lionel Messi stated that he “wanted to keep competing to win trophies.”
Two weeks ago, that desire for this season looked unlikely. Atletico Madrid had a sizeable lead over the Catalans in La Liga, Paris Saint-Germain built up a 1-4 lead in the Champions League, and Sevilla had a 2-0 advantage in the Copa del Rey.
The first of these tasks was addressed on Wednesday night, in what turned out to be a memorable night in the history of FC Barcelona. A 94th minute Gerard Pique header sent Barça into extra time, where Martin Braithwaite completed the comeback to send the Catalans through to the final 3-2 on aggregate.
The chance to win another trophy would no doubt have pleased Messi but it is the story of the match that will help keep the Argentine at the club next season.
If Messi stopped and looked around the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, he would have seen determination and heart from his teammates to keep going to the final whistle, an abundance of youthful talent performing at a level beyond their years, and world-class players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen ready to step up when certain challenges emerged.
Throughout one night, all these combined into a sort of presentation to the Argentine, exhibiting the future of FC Barcelona and where the team is headed.
There is no denying that the gap between Barcelona and Europe’s elite is still large, but this performance showed the signs Messi has called for and that is something that can be noted down for the future.
The perfect Liga weekend
Looking ahead to the weekend, the second of Barcelona’s comeback missions received an encouraging boost.
The Catalan side were looking to go 16 games unbeaten in La Liga in a match against twelfth place Osasuna and a win would not only see them extend this run but close the gap on Atletico Madrid to just two points, albeit with two games in hand.
The importance of this weekend lied in Atletico’s game as they face city rivals Real Madrid. In an ideal world, Barça fans would hope that the spoils are shared in El Derbi allowing the Blaugrana side to gain points on both Madrid clubs.
Barcelona’s prayers were catered to, and not only did the Catalan giants pick up three ugly, yet important points from their encounter against Osasuna, the capital outfits had to settle for a draw. Playing the angel’s advocate, even if Atleti had come away with the three points, it would essentially narrow the title race to just two teams considering Los Colchoneros gap at the top.
From Lionel Messi’s point of view, winning the La Liga title from the position Barça found themselves in a few weeks back would be a huge encouragement to stay for another season, especially if it is accompanied by the Copa del Rey. The Argentine has been part of teams that let leads slip over the last three seasons and to flip the script on that, would ultimately show progress.
The Presidential election
The final act of the week was the 2021 Presidential Election, where the next president of FC Barcelona was chosen on Sunday night. Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa were the three candidates fighting for Barça’s top spot, and all have addressed the situation of Lionel Messi throughout their campaigns.
Joan Laporta had emerged as the favourite for a second spell, and like everyone suspected, the Spaniard swayed the elections, coming on top as the winner. Ideally, it would have a significant impact on the future of La Pulga, as Messi showed up to vote for the elections for the first time in his life. In fact, Laporta went on to claim that Leo congratulated him on the night. His renewal will be one of the many hurdles Laporta will have to jump over.
Throughout the presidential campaign, it has been rumoured that Messi will not stay if Joan Laporta does not win. Laporta himself fuelled these rumours on Tuesday during the last of the Presidential debates.
The Spaniard stated, “If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona”.
“If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona. “Messi will weigh up the offer we make him. I’m convinced that if the other candidates win, Messi will not remain at Barcelona. He wasn’t happy during Freixa’s time on the board.”Joan Laporta in the presidential debate
If these feelings are believed to be true, the future of Lionel Messi could take a dramatic twist on Sunday.
Having said all this, Lionel Messi’s future could come down to one simple desire, to win a fifth European Cup. At 33 years old, the Argentine does not have time on his side in this pursuit, and it could be years before Barcelona can compete for Europe’s top prize again.
With ready-made teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain waiting on the side-lines, the final decision in June could come down to this week — if this week does not make it for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, there is little chance anything else will.