When a reporter asked Barcelona manager Luis Enrique whether he thought Neymar Jr. should be benched before fixture against Real Sociedad at Anoeta, Enrique snubbed the question. “Not play Neymar? Are we joking or what?” he said. But if truth be told, the reporter’s question was far away from a joke. The Brazilian winger has acquired four yellow cards this season and if he had been booked against Sociedad, he would have to be on the sidelines against Real Madrid.
Enrique himself expressed shock over the number of bookings Neymar has received. The Catalans are not known for their aggressive game play and the manager agreed that it is an area he needs to take care of.
Neymar had also received a rude shock just few days before the La Real game when Spanish prosecutors asked a court to deliver two-year jail sentence and a fine of €10 million to him in an alleged corruption case. The complaint filed by Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned Neymar’s 40 per cent sporting rights during his transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2013, alleged that Barca has not enclosed the actual amount of transfer fee.
Brazil coach Tite in an interview agreed that the looming corruption charges are bound to affect Neymar’s performances and said the player is going to require help from others to get in the right frame of mind. “There’s no way to disassociate, it is going to depend on the capacity of the people around him to tell him to stay calm,” he said.
Questions were also raised over Neymar’s mental fitness after he crashed his Ferrari Spider on the way to the airport. The striker though still found his name on the starting sheet and provided an assist to Messi which ensured that Barcelona manages to earn a point. Though, Neymar and Co. had yet another bad day on the field and Enrique described the performance as the ‘worst’ under his reign.
Unfortunately for Neymar, his problems this season do not end with that. Since August, when he won the gold medal for Brazil in Rio Olympics 2016, things have gone downhill. Neymar has not scored a single goal in last seven fixtures for Barcelona which has hurt his side.
With Neymar’s partner up front, Luis Suarez, too finding it hard to net the ball, the goals for Catalans have dried up. The team appears to be going back to the older days when there was a sense of over-dependency on Messi to win games.
In spite of the brewing troubles, the thought of benching Neymar never crossed Enrique’s mind and it is highly unlikely that the manager will be thinking of not playing one of his star players against Real Madrid on Saturday in the first Clasico of the season. But if Neymar delivers yet another mediocre performance, his team might find themselves struggling against a confident Zinedine Zidane side.