Neymar steps out of Messi's shadow

2017-03-10 07:32
Neymar (Getty)

Barcelona - For a victory "defined by faith" according to Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, the Catalans rose from the dead inspired by the man who never stopped believing.

'As long as there's a one percent chance, we'll have 99% faith," said Neymar before a ball had been kicked in Barca's stunning revival from a 4-0 first leg deficit to beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1.

A few hours, two goals and a vital 95th minute assist for Sergi Roberto to cap the biggest comeback in the history of the Champions League later, Neymar hailed his display as the "best game" of his career.

'This is the best game I have ever played. For what it meant, for what we experienced,' said the 25-year-old.

Neymar hasn't always had the easiest time since swapping Santos for Spain three-and-a-half years ago.

The murky series of contracts that sealed his transfer have seen Neymar, his father and Barcelona dragged through the courts on corruption and tax evasion charges.

Yet, it is for nights like Wednesday that Barca paid millions to recruit and then renew Neymar's contract till 2021 in October.

Pre-match focus had framed the seemingly impossible comeback only realistic if Lionel Messi made it happen.

Instead, three times in a frantic final seven minutes, it was Neymar, not Messi, that took responsibility and dragged Barca back from the brink into a record 10th consecutive quarter-final.

Firstly, he curled home a brilliant free-kick and then took over penalty duty, despite Messi having earlier converted from the spot, to leave Barca needing just one more.

Amid the bedlam of nearly 100 000 voices at the Camp Nou, Neymar then calmly cut inside with Barca's last chance as the seconds ticked down to tease in the perfect cross on his weaker left foot for Sergi Roberto to apply the finishing touch.

Ballon d'Or worthy

'Not even in our wildest dreams could we dreamed the way it happened,' Neymar posted on Instagram alongside a celebratory photo of he and Messi.

'The impossible is just a matter of opinion.'

Messi and Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo have ruled the roost as the world's two best players since 2008 - sharing nine straight Ballon d'Or wins.

However, Neymar's display on the biggest stage left many in little doubt he is the heir to their crown in the future.

'A night worthy of the Ballon d'Or,' said Spanish sports daily Marca.

'With his speed, skill and powerful strike, PSG folded up against the best version of the Brazilian.'

Neymar is used to carrying the biggest burdens.

He took Brazil to the semi-finals of the World Cup on home soil in 2014 before his back was broken towards the end of a bruising quarter-final clash with Colombia.

Some measure of revenge for that blow was taken by scoring the winning penalty as the hosts claimed a first Olympic gold at the Rio Games in August.

Rather than be cowed, Neymar is inspired by the biggest moments when his side need him most.

And he could be the key with a suddenly revitalised Barcelona eyeing a second treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in three seasons.

'We believed before and now even more (so),' added Neymar.

After partying into the early hours of Thursday morning with three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, Barca and Neymar travel to Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday looking to avoid a hangover.

'It wouldn't be a bad thing if Barca went out partying,' hopeful Deportivo boss Pepe Mel told radio station Onda Cero with his side sitting just five points above the relegation zone.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Espanyol v Las Palmas (19:45)


Valencia v Sporting Gijon (12:00), Sevilla v Leganes (15:15), Malaga v Alaves (17:30), Granada v Atletico Madrid (19:45)


Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao, Deportivo la Coruna v Barcelona (15:15), Celta Vigo v Villarreal (17:30), Real Madrid v Real Betis (19:45)


Osasuna v Eibar (19:45)

Read more on:    barcelona  |  champions league  |  neymar  |  soccer

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Do you think SAFA made the right choice in appointing Stuart Baxter as head coach of Bafana Bafana?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.