Barcelona fans got a taste of what they hope will be a glorious partnership when Lionel Messi and Neymar graced the field in the famous shirt of the Catalans for the first time together on Friday. Neymar’s inaugural outing at his new home, the Camp Nou, just so happened to be against a Santos side from which he made his long-awaited big-money move in June. And the Brazilian star will likely have felt some remorse as his new side put his only former employers to the sword in an 8-0 victory.
Neymar made a brief cameo appearance to make his debut against Lechia Gdansk on Tuesday, but was brought on at half-time on this occasion and was given 15 minutes alongside the man he continues to insist that he has come to help rather than take the limelight from.
By that point, though, his side were already leading 4-0 and making light work of opponents that have been weakened considerably since they faced off with Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup in 2011 and still lost by four goals. The opener this time arrived after just eight minutes. Messi displayed some pre-season sharpness to run onto a loose ball in the box and round Santos goalkeeper Aranha and before tapping home. Three minutes later the lead was doubled. Brazilian full-back Dani Alves curled a cross in and Santos defender Leo made unfortunate contact with the ball to send it flying past his own keeper.
As well as the obvious main attraction, the match was also noticeable for the contribution of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean, who endured a torrid last campaign, was involved in much of Barcelona’s stylish attacking endeavors while on the pitch and got himself on the scoresheet on 20 minutes when he stroked home following neat work from Messi. The former Udinese forward was integral too in the fourth goal. This time he threaded a pass through to Jordi Alba, whose square ball across the box was finished off by Pedro.
New Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino, whose first match in charge since replacing Tito Vilanova was overshadowed by Neymar, elected to make a host of changes at the break. But rather than the club’s new star it was one who has been linked with a move away this summer that made an instant impact. Cesc Fabregas, the subject of repeated bids from Manchester United, added his name to the scoresheet by drilling home from a Sanchez assist. Neymar did provide a taste of what he could bring to the Barcelona party by nonchalantly stopping the ball down the left of the box and then picking out Fabregas, who in turn picked out the top corner with his weaker left foot to notch a second.
The goal of the game, though, was reserved for an almost forgotten man for club and country, Adriano. Stepping inside on his weaker right foot, the Brazilian full-back whipped in a shot from 25 yards that rippled gloriously into the far corner of the net. Impressive young substitute Jean Marie Dongou wrapped up the scoring with a simple finish with nine minutes remaining. All that was missing was a goal from Neymar but Brazil’s golden boy was denied in the closing stages as Vladimir tipped over his former teammate’s fierce left-footed shot.