Bale no match for Neymar in battle of big-money buys

Updated: 2013-10-28 07:28

By Agence France-Presse in Barcelona (China Daily)

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Bale no match for Neymar in battle of big-money buys

Barcelona's Neymar celebrates scoring against Real Madrid during their Spanish first division Clasico match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona on Saturday. Albert Gea / Reuters

Gareth Bale was given his chance to shine on the biggest stage of all on Saturday as he made his El Clasico debut for Real Madrid against Barcelona.

However, unfortunately for the Welshman, it was another expensive import who shone, as Neymar scored Barca's opener and then teed up Alexis Sanchez for what proved to be the winner 12 minutes from time.

Jese Rodriguez pulled a goal back for Madrid in stoppage time to make the final score 2-1, but Bale had long since departed by that point as he was replaced by Karim Benzema with half an hour remaining.

"I am very happy to score such a special goal, but above all for the three points that we achieved," said Neymar.

"It was very exciting to score in the game that every player wants to play in."

The contrast between the summer's blockbuster signings couldn't have been greater and merely summed up the difference in how they have adapted to La Liga in their first two months in Spain.

Neymar has benefited massively from the relatively swift process that saw his 57 million euro ($78.1 million) move from Santos completed before Barca had even completed last season.

The Brazilian arrived to a hero's welcome in the Catalan capital on the first Monday in June before returning to his homeland to take the world, and even some of his new teammates, by storm by guiding his country to the Confederations Cup with a 3-0 win over Spain.

On Saturday night, it wasn't merely that the 21-year-old outshone Bale, he was the standout player on the pitch, overshadowing the world's best in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

His goal might only have been his fourth in 14 appearances, but the pass he made to Sanchez, who finished the contest with a nonchalant lob over Real goalkeeper Lopez, was already his seventh assist, making him the chief architect on a side boasting the talents of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas.

"Neymar played a great game," Barca boss Gerardo Martino said. "To score a goal in the Clasico creates a huge impact."

Bale, by contrast, had a much more anxious summer as he waited to see if his $138-million move to the world's richest club would finally come off.

By the time it did, on the first day in September, his chance of a bedding-in period and pre-season with his new teammates had disappeared.

It hasn't been all bad news for Bale, though. He scored his only Real goal to date in his much-anticiapted debut against Villarreal.

However, since then a series of niggling injuries have hampered his participation and he has yet to play a full 90 minutes in any of his six appearances.

(China Daily 10/28/2013 page23)