As Neymar’s world record move to Paris Saint Germain has been finalised, we look back on the years of ‘MSN’ and see a dynasty that never quite materialised.
The greatest footballer the world has ever known. Uruguay’s finest ever forward. A Brazilian who even at 25 can be spoken in the same breath as some of his nation’s true footballing icons.
When Barcelona assembled this forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar three summers ago, footballing dominance beckoned.
This fearsome line of forwards was realistically labelled as the greatest front three in the history of club football, even eclipsing the previous Barcelona trio of Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry from a few years previous. Some even believed that this forward line alone could outshine the legendary Barcelona team of 2008-2011, and repeat or even surpass the unprecedented sextuple of 2009.
Yet, with the fall of ‘MSN’ now official, it is clear that this almost predestined vision of greatness ends unfulfilled.
It is worth noting that in the first season Barcelona fielded this magnificent trio, they dominated every competition they were a part of with a dazzling brilliance that made a mockery of even the tightest defences in Europe.
However, in the two seasons that have followed, it has been arch rivals Real Madrid who have had the upper hand, having become the first team to claim back to back UEFA Champions League titles. As this Madrid team continue to go from strength to strength under Zinedine Zidane’s fledgling managerial career, it is clear that fans, pundits and observers around the world overestimated the impact that ‘MSN’ would have on both Spanish and European football.
Messi, Suarez and Neymar have indeed scored an unprecedented amount of goals in their three seasons together but judging by Barcelona’s huge over-reliance on this trio, it appears that those in the senior hierarchy at the club over-estimated their impact too.
There is no more blatant sign of such a judgement than in Barca’s flawed buying policy over recent years. Xavi and Iniesta are now figures of the past, neither Valdes nor Alves were adequately replaced, and there has been very mixed success in the quest to find a top drawer partner in crime for Sergio Busquets in the middle.
These errors, along with the signing of several players who are nowhere near up to Barcelona standard such as Andre Gomes, highlight a stark truth for the Catalans; complacent recruitment will never rebuild a team like Barcelona to its former glory or beyond, no matter how good the forward line is.
The intriguing reality of this small chunk of Barcelona’s history is that the unrivalled talent of the front three was in some ways a curse.
It appeared to have blinded everyone in the football world, including those in the Barcelona boardroom, to the point where no one could see the rest of the team growing increasingly weak and being left to fall away from any suggestion of brilliance.
Two years later and these cracks have rapidly developed into fissures, with this complacency resulting in the expected dominance of European football having not been achieved.
So as football says goodbye to ‘MSN’, we see it disband with an expectation having not been lived up to and a trophy haul far smaller than anyone expected. As mentioned before, the trio themselves were simply unmatched in their pure ability and talent.
They were, in fact, almost too good, to the point where they were let down by blinding and unprofessional complacency from the team around them but more importantly, by those above who were tasked with giving them an adequate team to work with in the first place.