Talk of Neymar moving to Real Madrid is already rife. The Brazilian forward swapped Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in August for a world-record fee of €222 million, but a return to Spain seems a serious possibility in future.
Neymar, who turned 26 last week, spent four successful seasons at Barca, where he was brought in as a long-term replacement for Lionel Messi. However, with the Argentine attacker still going strong, he decided to move away to be his own man in Paris.
As soon as he had left the Catalan club, it was speculated that the Brazilian would end up at Real Madrid, where he spent a short time on trial as a teenager as part of Robinho’s move from Santos.
“I think Neymar will play for Real Madrid one day,” Los Blancos’ left-back Marcelo told Esporte Interativo ahead of his side’s meeting with PSG in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
And asked if he would be a good fit for Real, the defender said: “He would fit, for sure.” So here, Goal takes a look at exactly how he could slot in at the Santiago Bernabeu if a move goes ahead this summer or in the near future…
PLAYING CENTRALLY IN A 4-3-3
Neymar usually plays on the left, but at Real Madrid that position is occupied by Cristiano Ronaldo – at least initially.
Heat maps of Madrid matches show that the Portuguese spends a lot of time in the centre, meaning he could switch positions with the Brazilian.
These days, in addition, many top teams play with three attackers and no out-and-out striker. Madrid could do something similar with Ronaldo on the left, Neymar centrally and Gareth Bale on the right, with the Brazilian taking Karim Benzema’s spot in the trident.
It would be ‘BBC’ no more, but ‘RNB’ has a nice ring to it…
AS THE PLAYMAKER IN A 4-3-1-2
When Bale is out, coach Zinedine Zidane usually picks Isco behind Ronaldo and Benzema in a 4-3-1-2 formation and Neymar could also operate in that position as a central playmaker.
The Brazilian enjoys playing in the middle and his dribbling ability could see him thrive in a central slot with Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, Marco Asensio or another new signing occupying the other two positions.
It would allow the 26-year-old to pick up possession from the midfield and pull the strings, while he would also be able to take up great goalscoring positions in a central role.
AS A NUMBER 10 IN A 4-2-3-1
Real Madrid do not really use 4-2-3-1, but a new coach could change that and with Zidane’s future very much in doubt, this system is another possibility for the future.
In it, Neymar could feature as a central playmaker. The Brazilian fancies himself as a number 10 and is familiar with the system, which is often utilised by Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain.
This formation would see Neymar, Ronaldo and Bale (or another signing like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard) play behind a lone centre-forward, either Benzema or another new recruit, and would be extremely exiciting.
However, it would require extra defensive discipline from the forward players.
UP FRONT WITH RONALDO IN A 4-4-2
Another alternative is 4-4-2. That is a system used on occasions by Zidane and in it, Neymar could feature up front alongside Ronaldo – just as Benzema and Bale have done over the past couple of seasons.
Madrid played 4-4-2 in the 5-2 win at home to Real Sociedad on Saturday and Casemiro was left out of the team as Zidane opted for Asensio and Lucas Vazquez on the wings.
With two wide players tracking back, a specialist defensive midfielder like Casemiro is not necessarily needed. In this system, Bale could operate as a more orthodox winger, giving plenty of freedom to Ronaldo and Neymar in attack.
AS A RONALDO REPLACEMENT
On the same day Neymar turned 26, Ronaldo celebrated his 33rd birthday and the Portuguese forward cannot go on forever at his current level.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was also unhappy last summer and considered leaving Real Madrid, before changing his mind and deciding to stay.
Failure to succeed in the Champions League this term, following the disappointments in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, could bring about big changes at Real in the summer and if Ronaldo opts to move on, Neymar will be seen as the ideal replacement.
The Brazilian plays in the same position as the Portuguese and with Messi an impossible signing for Madrid, he would be the very best alternative to the 33-year-old. At 26, he is also still at a good age and could go on to star at the Bernabeu for a number of years.