From the streets of Brazil to the world’s most expensive player, Neymar has lit up football with his tricks and dribbling skills.
|Name:||Neymar da Silva Santos Junior|
|Nickname:||Juninho, Joia, Lord of the Night|
|Born:||February 5, 1992|
|Birthplace:||Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo, Brazil|
|Height:||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Clubs:||Santos, Barcelona, PSG|
|Senior-level titles:||21 (19x Club, 2x International)|
Regarded as one of the world’s elite players, Neymar’s dazzling skills have thrilled fans ever since he was a teenager. There aren’t many capable of emulating him, especially on a weekly basis.
The multi-skilled star is the biggest talent from Brazil since Ronaldinho and Kaka. His passing, ball control and shooting abilities are brilliant with either foot. Add his explosive pace to the mix, then you have the full package.
Since moving to Europe in 2013, Neymar has taken his game up a whole new level in foreign territory.
Playing with and against the world’s most formidable players has clearly enabled his magnificent skills to prosper.
Now the 28-year-old heads into 2020 in what could be the defining point of his entire career.
Early rise to prominence
Neymar was born on February 5, 1992, in Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
He is the eldest of two children to Neymar Sr, an ex-footballer himself, and Nadine Santos.
Pursuing football was a natural choice given his father’s past in the sport. Therefore, Neymar spent countless hours of his childhood on the streets honing his talents and playing Futsal (indoor football).
After a spell with Portuguesa Santista youth club, he joined Santos’ youth system aged 11. It didn’t take long to get noticed either as news spread of the youngster’s honed abilities.
Neymar already had many typical traits of a great Brazilian footballer in pace, dribbling, creativity and his own trademark feints.
Aware of this, Real Madrid invited a 14-year-old Ney over to Spain for a trial in 2006. He impressed greatly, but then-Santos president Marcelo Teixeira blocked a move.
“We were able to get hold of his father and make him an offer that earned him a million dollars. He quickly accepted,” confirmed Teixeira.
“My whole board of directors told me I was out of my mind, but we all knew Neymar was something special.”
Therefore, Neymar remained in Brazil and debuted for Santos’ first-team in 2009 at only 17 years old. His potential was so great, the club couldn’t delay it any further.
The Brazilian developed into a star by famously helping Santos win three league titles, one Copa do Brasil and a Recopa Sudamericana.
But Neymar’s biggest achievement was in helping Santos win a first Copa Libertadores title in 48 years back in 2011.
His lack of experience didn’t matter, Neymar’s skills shone through and the goals kept on coming. In fact, he scored a 100th career-goal on his 20th birthday in 2012 against Palmeiras.
Neymar enters Europe
By the age of 21, Neymar was already a fully-fledged member of the Brazilian national team and won the Confederations Cup. Therefore, it was time to make the big leap into Europe.
The Brazilian confirmed an €88.20m transfer to La Liga champions Barcelona in May 2013. Seeing him line-up alongside Lionel Messi was a tantalising prospect for all fans.
Although there were some doubts on how he would coordinate with the Blaugrana superstar. Fueling them was none other than the legendary Johan Cruyff.
“Neymar and Messi are two attacking players, but that means there will be one less player doing the defensive work [and] that could be a problem,” said Cruyff.
“Barcelona have a style of play in which the players on the wing have to work hard; however, Neymar isn’t a work-horse like Pedro or [Cristian] Tello.”
But Neymar quashed these doubts and delivered superbly in his debut campaign. He contributed 15 goals and 15 assists in 41 appearances while working flawlessly with Messi.
He went one better the following season in a new attacking partnership, dubbed “MSN”, alongside Messi and Luis Suarez. They scored a combined 122 goals as Barcelona won a treble by claiming La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League glory.
The sky was the limit for Neymar at Camp Nou as he reached new staggering heights.
The forward thrilled supporters with his endless array of tricks, feints and dribbling skills. While the “MSN” partnership ended the 2015/16 campaign on a combined record total of 131 goals.
He also led Brazil to gold in the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In March 2017, Neymar was the protagonist for one of the most famous comebacks of all-time. It came in a Champions League last-16 clash between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
With a 4-0 first-leg deficit, Barcelona began the return leg almost resigned to defeat. But fate had other ideas as the Blaugrana pulled off the famous La Remontada (The Comeback).
At the centre of things was Neymar, who possibly delivered the greatest performance of his entire career.
After Suarez, Layvin Kurzawa’s own goal and Messi put Barcelona 3-1 up, Ney took control of the tie. He scored a brilliant free-kick to put his club within a goal of moving level on aggregate with PSG.
The Brazilian then scored a penalty in the 90th-minute before famously assisting Sergi Roberto’s injury-time winner.
“What we felt when we scored the sixth goal… I never felt something like this. It was incredible,” said Neymar three years later.
“When we won against PSG with Barca, it was completely… we all went crazy afterwards. I believe it was the best possible feeling for all of us.”
World’s most expensive player
Neymar stunned the entire football world five months later by sealing a world-record €222m transfer to PSG.
He’d developed into one of the world’s greatest players at Barcelona, with 105 goals and 76 assists in 186 appearances. Two La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys and the Champions League followed.
Eager to escape to Messi’s shadow, however, Ney ended his Camp Nou days for a move to the French capital.
He grew frustrated with his supporting in the Blaugrana attack and felt it hindered his Ballon d’Or hopes. Much to everyone’s disappointment, though, his career has only backtracked.
Injuries have played a big part in his disappointing spell in France, with Neymar sustaining regular metatarsal problems. Not helping him is the emergence of Kylian Mbappe.
After two seasons in Paris, Neymar saw an attempted return to Barcelona go up in smoke in 2019.
But the former Santos star has left the transfer saga in the past and is showing glimpses of his old self this season. Whether he can keep this form and remain uninjured, though, is the question of everybody’s minds.
The ultimate goal for Neymar in 2020 is to lead PSG to a first Champions League crown, and Brazil to Copa America success.
He will be particularly hungry for the latter after missing last year’s title on home soil because of injury. The memory of Brazil’s failed 2014 and 2014 World Cup campaigns are still a fresh memory as well.
Should Neymar pull these feats off, he may become the fourth Brazilian in history to win a Ballon d’Or.