Neymar threatens Barca’s world ambitions
Reuters, Saturday 17 Dec 2011
Barcelona have had their thunder stolen before Sunday’s Club World Cup final in Japan, with endless questions about hot-shot Santos striker Neymar rammed down their throats daily

The Spanish and European champions, bidding to win the seven-team competition for the second time in three years, boast arguably the world’s best player in Lionel Messi.

Yet try as Barcelona might not to talk about Neymar, the name of the 19-year-old Brazil forward so coveted by Europe’s biggest clubs keeps cropping up.

“Neymar is a very dangerous player,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola told reporters on the eve of a mouth-watering final in Yokohama. “I expect a cracking game.”

Neymar has set tongues wagging in Japan, Brazil’s pin-up boy scoring a wonder goal as he sparked Santos to a 3-1 semi-final win over J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol.

“We watched Santos on TV and individually they’re very dangerous,” said Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, grinning sheepishly as he anticipated what was coming next.

“Neymar is a brilliant player. But it’s not just about him.

“This is the game of the season for us. You have to win the Champions League to get here so we badly want to win this trophy to have the right to be called ‘world champions’.”

Barca captain Carles Puyol added: “Neymar can go right or left. He’s so quick and unpredictable, he will be very difficult to mark.”

Guardiola has demanded victory after the blow of losing Spain striker David Villa to a sickening leg break in their 4-0 semi-final thrashing of Qatar’s Al Sadd.


“Santos are a technically gifted team, physical and very quick,” he said. “It’s not easy to come out to Japan and win the Club World Cup.

“They have a fantastic player in Neymar and also in (Paulo Henrique) Ganso. They will be a real threat but we are prepared for whatever they throw at us.

“I don’t know if they will sit deep or come out guns blazing. But I expect us to win. I don’t know if it will be 2-0 or 3-0. We just want to take the trophy home.”

Santos, who captured their third Libertadores Cup in June almost 50 years after Pele led them to back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963, were also brimming with confidence.

“I will not be the beast who limits Barcelona’s ball possession,” Santos coach Muricy Ramalho said cryptically, aware the Catalan giants start as favourites.

“Nobody can manage this. We have to put pressure on them and gamble on some things happening - like a through-ball from Ganso or Elano, or a stroke of genius from Neymar perhaps.

“Neymar will definitely do something,” said Ramalho, returning inevitably to his whirlwind striker with the blond mohican. “I have no doubt he will make them suffer.”