Dani Alves says there is nothing unusual about Neymar’s first two competitive Barcelona appearances being as a substitute.
The €57 million summer signing was introduced from the bench against both Levante and Atletico Madrid, leading some pundits to suggest that new coach Gerardo Martino was being unnecessarily cautious in introducing the Brazilian to the starting XI. Others have wondered whether Neymar himself might be disappointed not to have played a more prominent role so far.
But blaugrana right-back Alves said every new player - even ones as talented and expensive as Neymar - must fight to win their place in a squad as talented and competitive as Barcelona’s.
"[Neymar] is very motivated to play,” Alves said. “He knows where he has come to, and the demands here. He knows the responsibility he has. He has adapted in the best way possible into the group. Physically he is working well and taking advantage of the moments he gets. The more time he gets on the pitch, the more he will bring to Barca. Nobody is assured of a place at this club. There are players who earn more, others less, but we all must feel like possible starters.”
The new man is more likely to begin Barca’s Primera Division game at Malaga on Sunday evening, given Leo Messi looks set to miss the fixture with the thigh problem which saw him substituted at half-time against Atletico during the midweek Spanish Supercopa first leg 1-1 draw.
Alves looked to calm concerns in Catalonia that the Argentine had a serious issue, saying it was normal for a player to take precautions when he felt something was wrong.
“There is no need to worry about Messi,” he said. “There’s no need to sound any alarms. He did not feel comfortable [against Atletico], and was intelligent and decided not to continue. If you have the best player in the world it is normal that you depend on him. But we are working so that you notice absences as little as possible, so that we do not miss a player like him. He needs to recover well. Sometimes the Ferrari must go into the workshop for a tune-up.”
The Brazil international echoed claims made by blaugrana team-mates including Xavi Hernandez recently that Martino’s main message since coming in was that he wanted the team to regain the intensity that they had shown in previous super successful seasons under Josep Guardiola.
“He pressures us a lot and wants us to recover what we had, and what made us different to other teams,” Alves said. “Other teams also have great players, but we ran more than they did and that made us winners. If we get that back we will be happier again.”