Barcelona ace Neymar has thanked his team’s goalkeepers for helping him become the leading scorer in La Liga – and for putting him in position to relieve Lionel Messi of penalty-taking duties at the Nou Camp.
Spot-kicks have been a problem area for Barca over the last couple of years, due to Messi missing with unexpected regularity.
The Argentine star has already fluffed his lines from 12 yards on two occasions this season, against Athletic Bilbao and Levante, and has now failed on four of his last 10 penalties.
The knee injury suffered by Messi against Las Palmas three weeks ago saw responsibility handed over to Neymar, who promptly squandered a spot-kick in the very same game.
Neymar last night https://t.co/fJOdbSQHTT
— Vine Footy (@vinefooty) October 18, 2015
But Neymar retained his position as the team’s designated penalty taker despite that miss and has responded by converting on three consecutive occasions in the last two games – once against Sevilla before the international break, and twice in Saturday’s eventful 5-2 win over Rayo Vallecano.
That game saw Neymar adopt a new penalty-taking method with a very short two-pace run-up, and he admitted that he has been working hard on the technique in training.
“I can’t tell you the secret because if I did, opposition goalkeepers would catch on,” he smiled.
“But it is something I work on in training with Marc-Andre [ter Stegen], Claudio [Bravo] and Jordi [Masip].”
In addition to his spot-kicks, Neymar also added two more goals from open play to take his season’s tally to a league-high eight.
And he delivered a magnificent all-round display to suggest he is capable of rising to the challenge of leading the team during Messi’s ongoing injury absence, which will last for around another month.
The flamboyant Brazilian revelled in the wide open spaces afforded by Rayo’s all-action attacking approach, and he was delighted with his first four-goal haul for the club.
“I am happy with the win, with my goals and with our performance,” he said. “The congratulations go to all of my teammates. But I suppose it was one of my best games in a Barca shirt.”