Edmilson: Neymar's departure will spur Barca to league title
Former Barcelona defender Edmilson believes this season's issues will only galvanise Messi and Co.
It's not just raining at Barcelona now, it's pouring.
But, at the end of the season, those related to the 24-time La Liga champions could all be singing and celebrating in the rain.
First, they lost Neymar, heir apparent to five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi, to Paris Saint-Germain.
Then, political unrest in Catalonia caused the La Liga giants to play their last game against Las Palmas behind closed doors at Nou Camp.
Despite all these huge distractions on the pitch, Barcelona have made a perfect start to the season after the Super Cup defeat by Real Madrid, winning nine on the trot to open up a five-point gap in La Liga and lead Group D in the Champions League, scoring 27 and conceding just two.
BARCA STILL FORMIDABLE
Former Barca defender Edmilson feels that the bad news have only served to galvanise the Blaugrana and they will go on to win the league and be strong challengers in Europe.
The 41-year-old spent the past weekend here coaching kids from the Albirex Singapore Soccer School, Albirex-ActiveSG football programme and Yuhua Albirex Football Academy.
Yesterday at Stadio Futsal's Rooftop@Tessensohn, he told The New Paper: "As Barcelona motto says, they are more than a club and, time and again, they have proven it.
"In an empty stadium, the players were very professional in their last game and won 3-0.
"And although they were affected by Neymar's absence in the beginning - everyone was caught by surprise because he was still training and touring with them pre-season - they are now showing they can still win and beat strong teams like Juventus in Europe without him.
"Barcelona are always going to be favourites in any competition, but Real Madrid have been playing at the highest level over the past two years to win the last two Champions League and the league last year.
"But, with what has happened, Barcelona have a point to prove and want to bring cheer to their fans."
Edmilson also gave credit to coach Ernesto Valverde for tweaking the system to adapt to Neymar's departure.
"Barcelona have definitely lost pace on the left now that Neymar's gone but, when you still have Messi at his prime, everything's okay," said the former Brazil international who won the 2002 World Cup.
"But the team have done well to do away with their previous formation (4-3-3) and settle into a variation of the 4-4-2, with Denis Suarez as the fourth midfielder."
While Edmilson feels that Barcelona are still a force to be reckoned with in the short term, they will do well to plan for the future.
COUTINHO FOR INIESTA
He believes another Brazilian can step into the breach, but not in the way many think.
"Philippe Coutinho was brought up as a possible replacement for Neymar after he left, but who he should be replacing in the longer term is 33-year-old Andres Iniesta," said Edmilson, who played 71 league games for Barca across four seasons from 2004 to 2008.
"Like I said, Neymar is a dynamic winger, but Coutinho is a player with another style.
"Sure, he plays for Liverpool and Brazil as a winger sometimes, but he is best as a playmaker and he is a natural replacement for Iniesta when he retires.
"In the meantime, Luiz Suarez and Messi are still only 30 and have a few more good years in them to score goals, so they should be fine in that department.
"In any case, Barcelona always sign great forwards like Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. I'm sure they will have no problems finding replacements when the time comes."