NEYMAR’S world record £198million move to Paris Saint-Germain last summer shocked the football world.
Not only was the fee eye-watering, but also because the Brazilian had seemed destined for a long-term future at the Camp Nou as part of the vaunted “MSN” frontline.
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Having lost their La Liga crown to Real Madrid last season and forced to watch their bitter rivals once again win the Champions League, few gave Barca any hope of catching Los Blancos this term without the iconic former Santos superstar.
But after 23 La Liga games, Barcelona are top of the table, unbeaten with a seven-point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid and a staggering 17 points ahead of Real Madrid.
Additionally, the Catalan giants are in the final of the Copa del Rey and are among the favourites to win the Champions League.
So we asked our friends at Football Whispers to pick out five reasons why Barca are actually better off without Neymar.
Extra Man in Midfield
Without having to fit Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez into the same line-up, new Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has been able to set his side up in a 4-4-2 formation, no longer needing to make allowances for three ultra-attacking players.
This has allowed Valverde to field an extra central midfielder, often partnering Sergio Busquets with Croatian international Ivan Rakitic, affording Barca greater stability, control and balance in the middle of the park.
Messi’s Central Role
The absence of Neymar has meant Messi has been able to come inside from his usual station on the right wing, now occupying a central role playing off Suarez.
The little Argentinian genius has already broken the 20-goal barrier and has hit double figures for assists in La Liga alone.
What’s more, with a free role behind Suarez, Messi has been dropping deeper to dictate his side’s general play, while also still being able to get into the kind of positions in and around the penalty area where he is lethal.
Veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta is also benefiting from Neymar’s departure.
At times last season the 33-year-old legend looked a spent force, but he has rediscovered his peak form this term, becoming a vital player for the Blaugrana once again.
Aided by the additional defensive support of having two central midfielders inside of him, Iniesta has shone on the left of midfield for Barca this season, lighting up the Camp Nou with his creative skills.
Improved Defensive Record
The change of shape and greater balance the Barca team now boasts has also benefited their backline, with the defence receiving more protection than they had been previously.
With the support of the positionally responsible pair of Busquets and Rakitic in midfield, the Barcelona back four are conceding far less frequently, shipping just 0.48 league goals per game compared to last season’s 0.97.
Still Unbeaten with The Treble in Sight
Yet to taste defeat in either La Liga or the Champions League, Barcelona appear to be coping just fine without Neymar.
With a strong chance of completing the Treble this season, there would be no better way for the Catalan giants to prove there is life after the PSG star than completing a clean sweep of major silverware.