Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos (R) fouls Barcelona's Neymar during La Liga's second 'Clasico' soccer match of the season at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid March 23, 2014 (Photo : . REUTERS/Stringer (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER))
Barcelona managed a huge 4-3 win over Real Madrid that featured a superstar turn from Lionel Messi. Gerardo Martino's decision to go with four midfielders and only two forwards early on in the game proved to be a solid decision. However, one piece in the puzzle fizzled.
Martino opted for putting Neymar on the right wing instead of his usual post on the left. Neymar managed to run free most of the time and got a few solid passes from his teammates but he continued to look futile for Barcelona.
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There were easily a handful of moments in the first half where he was sprung free but never managed to put it all together to score for his side. At one point he was all alone with goalie Diego Lopez but was shut down by a block from Pepe who ran to defend as quickly as possible. Earlier in the game he had a chance down the right flank, but the defense caught up to him and cut off his angle. Neymar managed to assist on Lionel Messi's opening goal, but one would argue that it was mainly a lucky pass he made considering the fact that he was unable to control the ball initially.
The second half continued to showcase Neymar at his fading best. He was less effective as the half wore on, emphasizing the fact that he is not yet physically equipped to play in Europe. It seems that as games unravel, Neymar unravels with them. His pace drops and he becomes largely invisible. His major moment in the second half was the most controversial of the game. Messi made a perfect pass to spring him free. Neymar got past Madrid's defense and was alone on goal. Sergio Ramos came in behind him and seemingly let up on the play as if to avoid contact with Neymar. The Brazil felt something and immediately fell to the ground creating a penalty and a red card for Ramos. The end result was the turning point of the game.
Neymar is a notorious diver and while this incident was a bit questionable considering that Neymar was on a clear-cut breakaway, it is easy to question his showmanship on this play.
And unfortunately that is the only thing that Neymar provided for Barcelona the entire evening. The remainder of the game was a continued display of futility. He may have registered an assist, but his total goal tally for Barcelona in 2013-14 remains at one.
Martino left him on the bench last week in Barcelona's 7-0 win at home and it is rather odd that he suddenly decided to alter his previous formation to place Neymar. Cesc Fabregas' return was essential, but Neymar's was dubious at best.
Neymar may only be 21 but he still has a lot of physical training to do if he plans to remain in Europe for long. It is becoming increasingly clear that his lanky body is struggling with the physical game of Europe. If he doesn't strengthen himself, then he could be the next big bust for Barcelona.