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Rumours abound that the Brazilian prodigy is on the verge of agreeing a sensational move to the Santiago Bernabeu. Goal.com assesses what role he could perform in Madrid

ANALYSIS
By Paul Macdonald

Well well well. Just two weeks ago, we at Goal.com criticised Real Madrid's transfer business since the season's end, postulating that names such as Nuri Sahin, Hamit Altintop and Jose Callejon, while competent players, weren't of the necessary standard to threaten the incessant dominance of Barcelona.

However, with one swift statement from an agent, los Blancos' summer could be set to explode from the mundane addition of squad players into the realms of infamy.

The rumour mill almost burned to the ground on Tuesday in a manic day across Europe, with no story of more significance than Sky Sport 24's insistence that Neymar had agreed terms with the Spanish giants.

"He still has a lot of things to improve, and sometimes keeps the ball for too long, but he is unquestionably a raw talent that can surely become one of the best players in the world."

- Andre Baibich, Goal.com's Brazilian football editor

The source was agent Ernesto Bronzetti, who later retracted his comments, but added, crucially, his belief that the deal, believed to be worth €40 million, was "practically done".

The player himself has attempted to distance himself from the speculation, but from his point of view, and indeed Santos', the timing is far from beneficial. The Brazilian club face Penarol in the first-leg of their Copa Libertadores final in Montevideo on Wednesday evening - it would be professional suicide for anyone associated with a possible deal to offer any kind of indication contrary to the party line, which is that Neymar stays.

This is a story that refuses to die, however, and there is a certain degree of legitimacy from a Real Madrid perspective. Barcelona are all-powerful, the immovable object in Spain and on the continent. The purchase of Neymar would signal a battle cry from Castilla that previous defeats are now forgotten, and that their challenge is about to step up a notch with the acquisition of arguably the football world's most coveted teenager.

What does he bring? Well, the reputation of being Brazil's bright young hope, the prodigious youngster who can make the Selecao's dreams come true in World Cup 2014 and beyond. He has skill, pace, and above all, limitless potential. His noncholance and arrogance, which has the tendency to morph into petulance, is sometimes regarded as a negative - but Madridistas would queue around the stadium to watch showmen such as him grace the turf at the Santiago Bernabeu, and would forgive him his flaws if repaid by moments of genius.

There is also no escaping the fact that this deal seems to be so typically Madrid - even more so under the leadership of Galactico-gathering Florentino Perez. His cheque book remained relatively balanced in 2010-11 - understandable given the outrageous additions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Kaka the season prior. With Alexis Sanchez, Giuseppe Rossi, and Cesc Fabregas the Barca buzz words as they contemplate reinforcing their brilliance, it would be becoming of Perez to gazump the Catalans with a sensational signing such as this. The one-upmanship between the big two cannot be understated.

Also, he could be the poster boy of the new, youthful Madrid, a team that is being groomed to grow up together, learn to play together, and be successful together.

With the above in mind, we assess four options available to Madrid in order to incorporate their new signing into their starting line-up. Will his possible inclusion facilitate a formation change?

Providing extra support in the midfield, this set-up would allow Milan to give Robben more freedom if anything given the extra numbers in behind him.
REAL MADRID WITH NEYMAR - the possiblities
LEFT OF A 4-2-3-1
    RIGHT OF A 4-2-3-1    
Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira - Alonso 

Ronaldo - Ozil/Kaka - NEYMAR

Higuain

    Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira - Alonso  
 

NEYMAR - Ozil/Kaka - Ronaldo


Higuain
Neymar has enjoyed performing on the left hand side of this formation with Santos, so it would aid his integration to slot directly into a similar role at the Bernabeu. His dribbling ability and natural talent would come to the fore on this flank, with the likes of Alonso and Ozil so used to feeding Ronaldo. However, therein lies the main flaw in this approach - the Portuguese, after netting 53 goals primarily from the left in 2010-11, is sure to be disillusioned by the prospect of a young upstart uprooting him. This set-up is an unlikely avenue for Mourinho to explore.
    More likely is Neymar's inclusion from a wide right position. His free-roaming mentality often finds him searching for space in that area of the pitch, and so it would be a natural starting point for him. However, question marks remain regarding his defensive responsibilities - Madrid could be left exposed if he shirks his duties without the ball. Furthermore, Angel Di Maria's arrival from Benfica has been an unequivocal success - it is likely that he would be sacrificed, but does the Argentine really deserve to be ousted from the starting XI?



LEFT OR RIGHT OF A 4-3-3

   

LOANED BACK TO SANTOS

Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira - Alonso - Sahin/Ozil

NEYMAR - Higuain - Ronaldo


    Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira -
Alonso 

Di Maria - Ozil/Kaka - Ronaldo

Higuain
Jose Mourinho, in the main, preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout 2010-11, but gave an indication near the season's end that he could be keen to resurrect the 4-3-3 that served him so well at Chelsea.
Neymar's pace and exuberance would excel on either side of the attacking triumvirate, and there is no denying that, on paper at least, the front three represent a devastating prospect. Ozil has shown the maturity to suggest he could play slightly deeper, almost akin to Andres Iniesta's style for Barcelona. Di Maria would once more drop down to the bench.        
    As the rumours continue to gather pace, there is a belief that Neymar could be acquired now, and loaned back to Santos in order to continue his development. The Brazilian enigma remains just 19 years of age, and another season in South America could refine his abilities, and perhaps iron out any lingering doubts as to his temperament, safe in the knowledge that a switch to the Spanish giants awaits in 2012. This option represents its own risks for Madrid - what if Neymar suffers serious injury? - but remains an alternative that is reportedly being explored.


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Providing extra support in the midfield, this set-up would allow Milan to give Robben more freedom if anything given the extra numbers in behind him.

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