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Messi, Suarez, or Neymar: Who Has The Biggest Impact On His National Team?

They are their national team's’ biggest stars and Barcelona’s strongest weapons. But during the first two rounds of South American World Cup Qualifiers, none of them was able to play for their respective national teams. That raised the question: who in the Barcelona attack trident is the most important player for his national team, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, or Neymar? Here we will look at three details: team’s performance with the player, the team’s performance without the player, and player performance.

Team’s Performance With The Player

Barcelona attack: Messi in action.

Messi is Argentina's second leading scorer all-time. Photo: @GOAL_ID | Twitter

All three Barcelona stars debuted with their respective national teams very early in their careers. Messi and Neymar were both 18 when they played their first international matches. Suarez was a little late for the party, as the Uruguayan had just turned 20 before featuring in Uruguay’s main squad.

From there on, all of them had successful careers with their national teams. Suarez scored a goal and dished out an assist to lift Uruguay to the 2011 Copa America title, breaking an 18-year title hiatus for La Celeste.

Neymar has also earned some national team silverware. The Brazilian striker led the way for the Selecao in the 2013 Confederations Cup, including a goal and an assist when Brazil stunned World Champion Spain 3-0 in the final.

Messi, on the other hand, is still on the hunt for his first major title with Argentina. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner was denied a much-needed title three times in the last 10 years. Messi, who debuted under Jose Pekerman in 2005, had to endure three runner-up spots with Argentina: In the 2007 and the 2015 Copa America, and, probably the most painful of them all, the 2014 World Cup final loss to Mario Gotze and Germany.

Nevertheless, the Argentine has an amazing record when it comes to World Cups. Messi played in three different World Cups, tallying 11 wins, two draws, and only two defeats in the tournament. The only thing really missing for him is a major title, something Argentine fans have been waiting for since 1993.

Suarez has two World Cup appearances to his name, and a lot of controversy to go with them. Uruguay’s record with him is five wins, two draws, and one defeat. Yet, Suarez also has on his resume two of the most famous moments in World Cup history.

In 2010, he literally saved Uruguay in the quarterfinals against Ghana, when he swatted away a sure goal by Ghana at the end of the second extra time. In 2014, he shocked the world by biting Giorgio Chiellini.

Neymar has only played in one World Cup. He scored four goals and had one assist for Brazil before getting kneed in the back by Camilo Zuniga and ruled out for the rest of the tournament. With Neymar on the pitch, Brazil was undefeated with three wins and a pair of draws.

Team’s Performance Without The Player

Barcelona attack: Neymar saluting fans while playing for Brazil.

Neymar only lost two official games with Brazil. Photo: @FIFAUpdate | Twitter

Little needs to be said about Brazil’s form without Neymar in official competitions. Since he debuted in 2010, the Selecao played six official matches without their main player. In those six matches, Brazil recorded two wins (both against Venezuela) and four losses, including the 7-1 breakdown against Germany.

With the Barcelona is striker on the pitch Brazil has 11 wins, three ties, and only two losses in 16 official matches.

Suarez and Messi both have more official matches with their respective national teams than Neymar, since Brazil didn’t need to play the World Cup Qualifiers for 2014.

Despite him being their main goal scoring threat next to Edinson Cavani, Uruguay fares relatively well without Suarez.  Since he debuted for La Celeste in 2007, Uruguay had to play 11 official matches without Suarez. They recorded four wins, two draws, and five losses.

That might be a more balanced record than the other two, but there is no doubt that Uruguay is a more productive team with Suarez on the squad. When their No. 9 is on the pitch, Uruguay has a record of 25 wins, 16 draws, and 13 losses in official games.

Argentina has hardly ever had to play an official match without Messi in the past 10 years. Since his debut in 2005, Messi has only missed four official matches for Argentina. In the brief periods they had to fare without him, Argentina often ran into trouble. Their only win was a 3-1 home victory against Peru back in 2013. Since then they have lost to Uruguay in 2013, and most recently lost to Ecuador and tied with Paraguay this year.

With the No. 10 on the pitch, however, the story is different for Argentina. During his span with the national team, Messi has tallied 38 wins, 14 draws, and 14 losses in 66 official matches.

Player Performance

Barcelona attack: Suarez yells in triumph after scoring a goal.

Suarez is Uruguay's all-time leading scorer. Photo: @noticialatina2 | Twitter

The final piece necessary to draw a conclusion of who is the most important player for their national team are the numbers. Like it or not, all three of these players are forwards, and more often than not their productivity goes hand in hand with their goals and assists stats.

Starting with the most experienced of the three, Messi has a total of 99 caps for Argentina according to Transfermarkt. In those 99 caps, the Argentina captain scored 46 goals and provided 37 assists. Messi is Argentina’s No. 2 in scoring all-time, just behind Gabriel Batistuta.

Suarez has a total of 79 caps, where he scored 43 goals and had 18 assists for La Celeste. Despite his occasional antics, Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer, seven goals ahead of Diego Forlan.

At just 23 years old, Neymar already has 67 caps for the Selecao. He has scored 46 goals and dished out 27 assists. The young Barcelona striker is fifth in Brazil’s star-studded all-time scoring list, behind Pele, Ronaldo, Romario, and Zico.

As the statistics prove, all three are vital for their countries. However, taking in account how much their teams’ struggle in their absence, it’s not hard to claim that Argentina and Brazil depend on Messi and Neymar way more than Uruguay depends on Suarez for success.

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