In March this year, Barcelona pulled off one of the most incredible and high-profile comebacks in modern football and despite some of the iconic imagery that emerged afterward, it wasn’t Lionel Messi they had to thank.
A 4-0 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain had left the Catalans on the brink of Champions League elimination in the Round of 16 but an extraordinary 6-1 victory at the Nou Camp fueled by an irresistible Neymar performance saw them through against all odds.
The Brazilian scored two of the three goals in the final seven minutes and even set up Sergi Roberto for the dramatic winner.
It’s that kind of display that sticks out when the votes are cast for the Ballon d’Or. It was that performance that elevated Neymar to a new level, one approaching that occupied by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ironically, PSG are also his chosen platform to finally stand alongside the ‘big two’, with his own golden accolade in hand.
Life in the French capital has begun well for Neymar, a minor feud with star striker Edinson Cavani aside, but outscoring Messi and Ronaldo may still see him fall short of the required votes. However, he’s already well ahead of the duo in a creative capacity. In fact, he’s well ahead of everyone in Europe.
In the 2017/18 season, the Brazilian has registered five assists in six outings so far, only Andres Guardado (five in six), David Silva (six in seven) and Miralem Pjanic (five in five) have fared better in that department across the top five European leagues.
He probably should have even more assists to his name given that he’s at the heart of nearly every PSG attack, creating chance after chance. In fact, he’s averaged 4.8 key passes per game this season, Kevin de Bruyne and Lorenzo Isigne come closest with 3.4.
Neymar also leads the way in terms of dribbles per game (7.7), making inroads into the opposition’s defence at every opportunity. The man who comes closest to him in Europe? You guessed it – Messi with six dribbles per games.
All the facts point to one inescapable truth. Neymar is currently the most creative player in league football across Europe. Can he maintain his stunning form though and build on it in the Champions League?
The Brazilian is rapidly approaching his peak and is desperate to end the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly over the Ballon d’Or and latest evidence suggests he is maturing and becoming a more rounded superstar.
It may not be this time around, but at this rate, it won’t be long until he will be the one to topple.