BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insists Neymar’s skills should be enjoyed rather than criticised after the Brazilian’s penchant for showboating once again came under the spotlight.
Former Barca and Real Madrid midfielder Michael Laudrup controversially slammed Neymar for displaying his full range of tricks towards the end of Barca’s 5-1 thrashing of newly promoted Leganes on Saturday.
“Ney has his own style, a style I think is spectacular for football. We enjoy it a lot at Barcelona,” Enrique said on the eve of Barca’s blockbuster La Liga clash with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
“There are many players that interpret football like that. It is a cultural thing more common in South American and particularly Brazilian players,” Enrique said, adding, “It is something that shouldn’t surprise anyone in Spanish football. He has been doing it since he got here.”
Neymar’s style has led to bad-tempered clashes with Atletico in the past. However, Atletico boss Diego Simeone claimed he is a big admirer of the 24-year-old.
“Everybody has their own style and way of playing. He is a player that I love,” said Simeone on Tuesday. The Athletico Madrid manager continued. “They have criticised him, but he enjoys himself, he dances, he sings and he destroys you. They can keep criticising, but he keeps responding as he has to.”
Both sides come into the game in free-scoring form after scoring five at the weekend. However, Enrique believes Atletico will revert to type when they travel to the Camp Nou and rely on their watertight defence to try and hold out against Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
“Many teams now defend deep against Atletico and give them the ball, so they are obliged to play more in tight spaces. I don’t expect that against us,” said Enrique.
The Barcelona manager added, “They can press high or, without doubt, they are the best team at defending close to their own area. That explains the complexities in playing against Atletico Madrid. They are one of the best teams in La Liga and clearly a contender for all the titles as always in Simeone’s reign.”
Barca’s two wins over Atletico in La Liga last season proved decisive in the title race as Simeone’s men finished just three points adrift of the champions in third. However, Atletico had their revenge by eliminating Barca in the Champions League for the second time in three years.
“There hasn’t been an easy game against Atletico Madrid in the past few years. They are a direct title rival and these are three very important points,” Enrique said.