Neymar admitted he is living a dream after making a strong Nou Camp debut for Barcelona in Friday night’s 8-0 thrashing of his former club Santos.
The Brazilian outfit negotiated a trip to Catalonia as part of their superstar’s transfer package, but some of the players may be now wishing they hadn’t bothered after suffering a mauling at the hands of their unforgiving hosts.
Neymar was restricted to the bench in the opening period as Spanish international Pedro started on the left wing, but he appeared for the second half and made a positive impression by craftily creating the evening’s sixth goal for Cesc Fabregas.
“The feeling was marvellous,” he beamed when asked to describe how it felt to step foot upon the Nou Camp turf for the very first time.
“I’m so happy and proud to play alongside so many great players such as Messi, Cesc and Xavi. I’m just lacking some physical fitness but it was a great occasion for me. It was a strange sensation to play against Santos, but the result was good and I am happy for Barca.”
The only downside to the evening was Neymar’s failure to score his first goal in Barcelona colours – although he did crash a left-footed drive against the crossbar in the final stages.
But he was unperturbed by that minor black mark, confidently laughing: “The goals will come!”
Fellow Brazilian international Dani Alves, meanwhile, insisted that his team-mates have returned from their summer break with a sense of determination to restore their reputation as the greatest team in the world.
Barca’s status took a significant blow with the manner of their 7-0 aggregate Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich at the end of last season, but Alves has every confidence they can climb to the summit of the European game once again.
“We want to win back the European crown,” he said. “This dressing room contains a huge amount of quality. It is a humble dressing room, and that’s the reason we are so strong.”
Alves has lived through the most successful period in the club’s history after becoming Pep Guardiola’s first signing when he took over in 2008, and he believes more success is around the corner under new manager Tata Martino.
“We are very excited and have a lot of desire to reclaim the crown that we have lost,” he added.
“We can fight for every competition that’s available if we have intensity, and the new coach will give us this quality.” Alves also has great faith in the new strike partnership of Neymar and Lionel Messi, enthusing: “They are going to be a great partnership. Neymar is not quite physically ready but he will be soon.”
Friday’s game against Santos saw Alves bear a new squad number on the back of his shirt, having decided to hand over his old No2 jersey to Martin Montoya and take on the 22 shirt vacated by his close friend Eric Abidal, who left in the summer and has now joined Monaco.
“He’s a person who truly touched me and made me a better person,” admitted an emotional Alves. “I want to return the affection that he has shown for me throughout this time.”
Barcelona will now complete their pre-season preparations with a brief Asian tour, which will see them face the Thai national team in Bangkok on Wednesday before heading to Kuala Lumpur for a meeting with a Malaysian Select XI on Saturday.
Their La Liga campaign gets underway at home to Levante on Sunday, August 18, with the two-legged Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid following shortly after.
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