By Ben Hayward at Camp Nou
It was the best possible start. Neymar made his Barcelona bow in front of almost 57,000 fans in the Catalan capital on Monday as the club's new Brazilian signing was presented to the Camp Nou crowd and then, subsequently, to the media. And he made all the right noises.
Expectation was high outside Europe's largest stadium on one of the hottest days of the year. Barcelona followers have endured a complicated campaign (despite their Liga triumph) with the illness of coach Tito Vilanova, the disappointing defeats to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals and, only days ago, the news that Eric Abidal will leave the Catalan club this summer. But this was something for fans to be excited about - and Neymar didn't disappoint.
|BARCELONA'S NEW BRAZILIAN
Cost of transfer
To be confirmed
Ibrahimovic, however, arrived at perhaps the highest point in Barca's recent history - just a couple of months after Pep Guardiola's spectacular side had completed a historic treble of Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League crowns. In a sense, the only way was down after such success. With Neymar, it seems, the only way is up - especially after his slick showing on Monday.
Unlike the Sweden striker, who was all smiles at his presentation but mumbled in Italian almost all the way through his entire Camp Nou career, Neymar spoke in Catalan to his new adoring aficionados. And he said all the right things, too.
Catalans always appreciate a few words in their native tongue and Neymar obliged. He had prepared for this: "Bona tarda," he began; "Estic molt feliç" and, of course, "Visca el Barca". "Good afternoon"; "I am really happy [to be here]" and "Long live Barca". Little phrases which meant a lot.
But much more interesting was how he dealt with questions from the media on what was the first test in his European career: Is he here to be the best in the world? "No, the best in the world is already here - and that's Lionel Messi." Does he want to win the Ballon d'Or. "I am not thinking about that - I am only here to help Messi carry on being the best in the world." Is he worth €57 million? "No!"
The message was clear: Neymar will not compete with the world's finest footballer but look to complement his new Argentine team-mate. Often tagged as a flashy individualist who values tricks over teamwork, a selfish showboater solely interested in building his own reputation, the Brazilian preached the team ethic on Monday; even if he had prepared himself for this, he tapped in to Barca's collective philosophy perfectly and showed he was well in tune with the hopes and needs of the Catalan club. His new fans were listening - and they were liking.
|I am really happy to be at Barcelona. And I am here to help Messi carry on being the best in the world
- Neymar at his presentation on Monday
So thumbs up for Neymar. Before a ball has even been kicked for the Blaugrana, the Brazilian has already made the best possible impression. His advisors have been intelligent. Talk about aiding Messi, they will have told him, preach the team ethic and tell them you are willing to work with others to build something special here. It was the right attitude, the right message and the right start from the Brazilian on Monday - a first test passed with flying colours. Catalan colours.
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