Barcelona may have endured a miserable season by their standards but, as always, they had their moments.
A victory in the Copa del Rey final cushioned the blow of Real Madrid’s La Liga triumph but it was in the Champions League where they carved their names deeper into football folklore.
After a disastrous first leg in Paris, the Catalan giants needed a miracle on home soil to progress to the quarter-finals.
A 4-0 thrashing at the hands of PSG required them to overturn a deficit never before reversed in the competition’s history.
With the score at 3-1 and just two minutes of normal time remaining, all hope was lost.
All hope except for that burning inside Neymar.
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The Brazilian superstar dug deep into his vast reservoir of talent and curled in a beautiful free-kick before winning and converting a penalty three minutes later.
With seconds remaining, he exhibited superhuman composure to delay one last ball into the box, surprising the PSG defence and allowing Sergi Roberto to beat the offside trap and poke in Neymar’s inch-perfect chip over the top.
It was instantly obvious this game had become a classic for the ages.
Neymar was the architect and those in the know recognised his brilliance and yet one image came was circulated more than any other from that night.
The image of Lionel Messi standing on the advertising hoarding, looking like a prophet preaching to his adoring masses.
Messi has earned the right to be Barcelona’s chief protagonist.
But if rumours are to be believed, the journey out of his shadow proved too long and arduous for Neymar.
At 25-years-old, the Brazilian superstar believes he is in his peak and wants to be recognised as the brightest star.
However, despite turning 30 this summer, Messi’s haul of 54 goals in 52 games last season proved he his outrunning the sands of time.
The word in Catalonia is that as much as Neymar likes and respects Messi, he does not want to play understudy to anyone.
Neymar said after the PSG miracle that it was the best performance of his career.
While miles of column inches gushed about his efforts, it was Messi’s image that populated the back pages.
And so, Neymar’s greatest moment in a Barcelona shirt also proved to be the catalyst for his exit.
Pride is the downfall of many men.
For most of us, life as Messi’s heir sounds like heaven.
But for those capable of reaching such a level, their elite mentality makes life in the Argentine’s shadow very cold indeed.
Reports from Paris suggest that their unveiling of Neymar will eclipse that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Five years ago the enigmatic Swede was welcomed on a podium at the foot of the Eiffel Tower – club officials are planning something even bigger for Neymar’s arrival.
He will be treated like a king, just the way he likes it.
However, when his £26million-a-year contract runs out in 2022, whether he’s satisfied with his legacy as a big fish in small pond remains to be seen.
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