After a good spell at Valencia, Neto Murara arrived to Barcelona in the summer of 2019 in an exchange involving Jasper Cillessen. Neto, as expected, did not have many minutes, yet his 19/20 season and his future must be analysed.
This is the twentieth episode of a series in which we review the performances of the different Barça first team players, as well as discuss their futures for the next campaign. You can check the series here.
It must be difficult to be a Barcelona goalkeeper these days with Marc-André ter Stegen as direct competition. The German hardly does something wrong to not consider him as the starter for most of the games. Even so, as has been happening in recent years, Ter Stegen has been able to complement himself well with other keepers in the team’s rotation. Ter Stegen is usually in charge of playing in La Liga and Champions League, while the back-up is handed the Copa del Rey and at times the Spain Super Cup.
“I know that he is a great goalkeeper, but I also think we can learn and grow together, and get better. I will work with professionalism, desire and ambition”
Neto, on Marc-André ter Stegen in his presentation as a Barça player
In the summer of 2019, Barcelona reached an agreement with Valencia to exchange Jasper Cillessen with Neto. Two goalkeepers of indisputable quality who came from brilliant years, Neto with more minutes and Cillessen having been Ter Stegen’s substitute. Now the former was going to assume the role of the latter, only playing in domestic Cup encounters and leaving the rest of the duels for Ter Stegen.
“I come to Barça in my prime, as a goalkeeper, and as a person”
It took months to see the Brazilian’s debut with Barça. On 10 December 2019, he was finally able to get his first official appearance with the Catalan team in the Champions League. It was the only remaining game of the European competition’s group stage, against Inter Milan. Barcelona had already secured their place in the round of 16.
In that match against Inter, players without many minutes such as Moussa Wagué, Jean-Clair Todibo, Junior Firpo, Carles Aleñá, Carles Pérez and also Neto got a chance. While Inter played their Gala XI, needing important points to qualify for the next round, Barcelona used a full-rotation line-up. Even so, Barça impressed by winning 2–1 at San Siro, but Neto was the hero of the match, making 7 important saves to deny the Italians. Neto’s first impression not only didn’t disappoint, but it also thrilled fans.
After two years in Valencia, ahead of the 19/20 season Neto moved to Barcelona to have a completely different role | Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso via Getty Images
Later, at the beginning of 2020, Ter Stegen suffered a slight injury that made him miss a couple of weeks. Fortunately, not many fixtures were going to take place in that period and Barcelona had a goalkeeper capable of making fans forget about the German. Neto made his second appearance with the blaugranas, his first in La Liga, against Espanyol. Supporters expected him to repeat the display he had against Inter. However, Neto underperformed in a clash that ended 2–2 with a late equalise from Wu Lei. The defence lacked concentration, but the Brazilian shot-stopper was not confident in the key moments.
Only five days later, Barça played the semi-finals of the new-look Spanish Super Cup against Atlético de Madrid. The Catalans were comfortably leading by 2–1 with very good football. That was until the 80th minute, when Neto committed a penalty and Atleti equalised. Five minutes later, Ángel Correa killed Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona by scoring another goal taking advantage of Neto’s poor positioning.
After those events, Neto only played two more games in the remainder of the season: in a 2–1 Copa del Rey win over Ibiza, and in a 5–0 victory against Alavés in the final duel of La Liga. Despite having played five matches with the team, the only one worth remembering is that superb performance against Inter. The reality is that Neto could have done much better in the opportunities he had.
What next for Neto?
While Ter Stegen is still fit, talking about the other goalkeeper is almost irrelevant. Why is Neto, who has a decent market value and could be replaced by Iñaki Peña, needed in the squad? In reality, it matters very little whether it is Barça B’s Iñaki Peña or Neto, since they would play two competitions at maximum. The difference is that one is a youngster who has earned the chance to be promoted to the first team, and the other needs to be a starter, something that could be achieved in most sides, but not at Barcelona.
With Ter Stegen having undergone surgery for knee surgery, maybe the plans change a bit since the German will be unavailable until November. Neto may be trusted for his experience, though Iñaki Peña has earned that right too. After the 19/20 season, what seems most sensible would be to sell Neto, promote Iñaki Peña to the senior squad and make Arnau Tenas the starter of Barça B. This would be a movement where everyone would win, on the pitch and even financially. Nonetheless, with the coronavirus situation and Ter Stegen’s injury, everything seems to indicate that Neto will continue in Catalonia, despite there are still many weeks left in the transfer market.