'Replacement killer' Neymar ready for new season

Goal's Senior Editor gives his take on Barcelona's chaotic win over valiant Malayan Tigers at Shah Alam Stadium


Controversies surrounded the friendly between Malaysia and Barcelona at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.

The Catalans won 3-1.

Changing of the venue at the last minute from National Stadium in Bukit Jalil to Shah Alam Stadium created messy problems for thousands of fans.

Apparently, some VIP ticket holders were left watching the match without seats. Yes...they were standing. And these fans paid more than RM600 for a ticket!

The fact that Argentine wizard Lionel Messi did not take the pitch also disappointed the  50,000 fans, including one from as far as Australia.

According to Spanish Press, Messi did not participate because of a 'muscle strain in his left thigh'.

However, there were also reports in Malaysia that Messi's agent did not want the goal-scoring machine  to play 'to prevent injury'. This was after experiencing 'nightmare' during  a training session on the horrible pitch at National Stadium.

Just don't know, which is which. Take a guess.

Messi's absence surely robbed some magical moments. It would have been a better performance from the Catalans if he was around.

Okay, let's talk about the match itself.

New Barca manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino seems to be preparing Neymar to lead the team up front in the new season - in case Messi is unavailable.

And the 21-year-old Brazilian sensation, despite down with anaemia and reportedly lost seven kilos since July, proved to be an inspiring figure via his individual brilliance besides scoring the second goal in the process.

If  not for Neymar, the match on Saturday would have been lacking in excitement...and this could made the fans even more disappointed after Messi's absence.

Partnering Neymar up front in the starting line-up were Cesc Fabregas and Chile international Alexis Sanchez with stalwarts Andres Iniesta and Xavi, who was the captain supporting them from behind.

Also in midfield was Sergio Busquets.

The defence was manned Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba with Victor Valdes in goal.

The other goals for Barca were scored by Fabregas and Pique while Malaysia replied through veteran Selangor striker Amri Yahyah.

However, Barca received a blow when Fabregas suffered an ankle injury. He is now a doubt for Spain's friendly against Ecuador on Aug 14.

Barca's well-known problems defence emerged once again. This was evident in Malaysia's fast counter-attacks which resulted in a superb goal by Amri.

Defensive midfielder Mascherano was not convincing playing the role of a  centreback, as usual.

And Barca know they have to sign up an established one before the transfer window closes on Sept 2.

Reports from England say the Catalans are confident David Luiz will demand a transfer from Chelsea.

The Daily Mail reports Barca expected the Brazilian to tell Chelsea tomorrow (Monday) that he wants to join the Spanish champions.

Barca are convinced Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is merely driving up the price and hope Luiz's desire to join them can help sway negotiations.

Barca fans are praying hard that Luiz will be at Nou Camp in the end.

Well...Barca may not really pushed themselves that hard and playing without Messi but credit should also be given to the Malaysians this time.

The Malaysians, under coach K. Rajagobal, were disciplined in defence and dangerous whenever they executed a counter-attack.

Amri was delighted he scored against a huge club like Barca.

"But it was a team's effort and I hope this goal would inspire us to bounce back after some  bad results in Japan recently," he said.

It was also great to see Rajagobal gave more playing time to young Nazmi Faiz Mansor, who is easily the best midfielder the country has produced in recent years.

It was good experience and learning process for the 18-year-old PKNS stalwart.

All said and done, don't know for sure whether Barca will come this way again after all the controversies.

If they do, let's hope things will go smoothly not messy.