Forget the goals – Neymar has been brilliant in Messi’s absence

Forget the goals – Neymar has been brilliant in Messi’s absence

The Brazilian can reach a century of strikes for the Catalans on Sunday – but it is his all-round form that has made this his best season for the club

Stats do not tell the whole story. When Neymar netted 39 times for Barcelona in his second season, it looked like he would go on to match the numbers notched by his team-mates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in front of goal. Perhaps surprisingly, that has not happened – but it does not really matter much.

After his move from Santos in 2013, Neymar scored 15 goals in 48 appearances for the Catalan club in his debut season. He then hit 39 in 51 games as the Blaugrana claimed the treble in 2014-15. In his third campaign, he added another 31 in 49 – but finished behind Messi (41) and Suarez (59).

This term, he has a somewhat modest total of 14 from his 35 games – easily his poorest return since that first season at Camp Nou. However, it should not matter – because there is much more to football than goals and this is comfortably Neymar’s finest campaign at the Catalan club.

Indeed, when Barcelona thrashed Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 last month in the Champions League to seal the greatest comeback in their history, it was Neymar – and not Messi – who was the biggest inspiration behind the win.

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