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Mar 21, 2014

Bigger impact: Bale or Neymar?

ESPN FC's Santiago Solari weighs in on last summer's mega signings Gareth Bale and Neymar.

The “Clasico” match between Barcelona and Real Madrid is one that has developed many subplots over the last few seasons. Whenever these two teams play, there are almost always implications for the La Liga title, and Sunday’s matchup is no different. Real Madrid currently leads La Liga with 70 points, while Atletico Madrid (67 points) and Barcelona (66 points) are closing in fast with just 10 games left to play.

The talk of individuals in this rivalry generally starts and ends with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. However, the recent arrivals of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and Neymar to Barcelona have raised this domestic matchup to one of the signature events of the European season.

Making matters even more interesting is that both Bale and Neymar have added significantly to their respective teams, yet neither is the primary attacking option. This makes it slightly more difficult to judge which player is having the bigger impact with his new club. However, when comparing both players based on individual impact, ability to co-exist with a world-class teammate, performance in key situations and how their teams have fared without them, it’s clear which player has been more effective this season for his club.

Direct individual impact

Bale is currently averaging 47.9 touches per 90 minutes, which is fewer than the 57.8 touches per 90 minutes he averaged last season, and also significantly lower than the 68.9 touches per 90 minutes that Neymar currently averages. However, Bale has become a more efficient contributor at Real Madrid, and not only does he rank second in La Liga with 11 assists, he is also scoring at the same rate as his Professional Football Association Player of the Year season in 2012-13.

#INSERT type:image caption: Chart of Gareth Bale’s shots and goals i...