Where will Neymar operate for Barcelona?

Sports Mole speculates where Neymar could operate for Barcelona next season.

Just about everyone has had their opinion on Brazilian sensation Neymar, who will grace the Camp Nou next season after agreeing to join Barcelona from Santos.

A total of 136 goals in 225 appearances for the Brazilian outfit tells its own story, while the attacker has also struck a stunning 24 goals in 39 games for his national team.

The 21-year-old makes the step up at Barcelona next season, with his ability to perform in the same team as a certain Lionel Messi called into question.

Here, Sports Mole dissects how the two South American talents could be used by the La Liga champions next season.

Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring his side's 2nd goal during the Confederations Cup match against Italy on June 22, 2013© AP Photos

Left of a three-man attack

It is difficult to imagine that Barcelona will change their 4-3-3 formation next season, with two wider players operating either side of Messi.

David Villa's departure has opened up a place in attack, but Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta are all capable of filling the wide positions for the Spanish outfit.

In terms of Barcelona's front three, it will be Messi plus two more, but it is difficult to imagine that Neymar will not be given a starting role for the Catalan outfit in the new campaign.

Neymar spent much of his career with Santos and indeed present time with Brazil operating from the left, with the youngster causing devastation from that position in the Confederations Cup this summer.

Should Neymar be given the left role in the front three, Pedro would surely be the favourite to edge out Sanchez in the fight to line up alongside the Brazilian and Messi in attack.

Right of a three-man attack

Interestingly, Thiago's future at Barcelona could have an impact on Neymar's position for the Spanish outfit next season.

Should Thiago remain with the Catalan club, it could transpire that the Spaniard is deployed in a three-man midfield alongside Xavi and the ever-reliable Sergio Busquets.

That would consequently push Iniesta into the wide left position, leaving the right of the attack open for Neymar to operate.

Although not his favoured position, the Brazilian has certainly proved that he can score goals for club and country from that area, with his ability to play off both feet.

Cesc Fabregas will also have something to say about the midfield area next season, while Pedro and Sanchez could also see their playing time cut short as a result.

Barca's Leo Messi is congratulated after a goal against Real Betis on May 5, 2013© AP Photos

Behind Lionel Messi

You could count on one hand the number of players in world football that are good enough and indeed trusted enough to be given a free role by their club. Messi is one of those, as is Neymar.

At the Camp Nou, where Barcelona almost always utterly dominate possession, we could see the Brazilian attacker given a number 10 role behind Messi.

Not only would that allow Messi the freedom in the final third, it would also allow two wide players to feed Neymar outside the penalty area.

Such a formation would also allow any of Barcelona's front four to switch position at any given moment, personnel that could include Iniesta and Pedro alongside Messi and Neymar.

It is often said that the best of players are just told to go and play, which could certainly be the case for Neymar at the Spanish champions next season.

Alongside Lionel Messi

It would be fair to state that the 4-4-2 formation, especially in European football, is slowly being edged out of the game.

However, with Barcelona utterly taken apart by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season, Catalan boss Tito Vilanova could be open to new ideas.

It is unlikely that Barcelona would line up with two central midfielders and two wingers, but a diamond of Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas and Iniesta would allow Neymar and Messi to interchange as a pair in attack.

Such a formation could prove problematic when attempting to stretch opposition in wide areas, but that team would include six players that are all capable of finding that killer pass in the final third.

On paper, it does seem an unlikely option for Barcelona, but moving away from the norm could be just what the Spanish outfit need in Europe next season.

Santos' Neymar prior to the start of the match against Flamingo on May 26, 2013© AP Photos

Ahead of Lionel Messi

Just about the only thing that Messi lacks in his game is blistering pace, something which Neymar will bring to the La Liga champions next season.

In terms of sprint speed with and indeed without the ball, there are few players in world football that would be able to match Neymar in a race.

Deploying the Brazilian as the focal point of the attack would present another option for Barcelona, who too often were found wanting in the Champions League last season.

That said, the majority of Messi's goals for the Catalan outfit have come inside the penalty area, a number that would certainly be restricted should Neymar be given the number nine position.

It remains to be seen whether two of the best players in world football can find a common ground in the hunt for trophies next season.

Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring the opening goal against Getafe on February 10, 2013
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2Atletico MadridAtletico2012712992043
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4Villarreal2010462822634
5Real Madrid1895432171532
6Sevilla2010282628-232
7EibarEibar198382431-727
8GironaGirona207672929027
9Getafe207672520527
10Real Betis198383336-327
11Athletic Bilbao206862322126
12Celta Vigo197483327625
13Leganes197481719-225
14Espanyol206681625-924
15Real Sociedad196583334-123
16AlavesAlaves2061131629-1319
17Levante203981628-1218
18Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo1944112137-1616
19Las PalmasLas Palmas2042141647-3114
20Malaga1932141333-2011
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