So we come to the end of our Brazil special, in tribute for next year’s World Cup, and in what better way to complete the trilogy than with a Part 3 on a player who could light up the very occasion, Neymar, but is he a player who will live up to the hype?
At 21, Neymar has attracted the attention of nearly every club in the world, with Barcelona hot on his heels and looking most likely to snap him up. Neymar has managed to attract all this attention while never playing for a European club, playing all his football in the Brazilian league. Not many players can create a storm among the big European clubs and not play in any one of their leagues. So, just how has he done this?
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Neymar’s skills were identified when he was at a very young age, signing for Santos at the age of 11. Santos being a club which was known for an excellent youth academy producing players such as Alex, Elano, Robinho and legends such as Pele and Pepe. Neymar was certainly in good hands and by the time he turned 14, he travelled to Madrid in order to join their ranks. Madrid at the time, hosted stars such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Robinho. Passing all the trials and impressing, he was ready to join, however Santos paid £1million to keep him. Staying on, Neymar developed through the ranks quickly and was awarded with a promotion to the first team in 2009. At this point Neymar was 17 years of age, making 48 appearances and notching 14 goals. It wasn’t the most prolific start, but given his age and it being his first season in the Brazilian league, it wasn’t looked upon to seriously. Neymar went on to flourish in the following season with 42 goals in 60 appearances, an incredible feat given his age and the number of goals scored. Neymar has now gone on to make a total of 219 appearances scoring 136 along the way. For a young man who has now only just turned 21, it is an enormous statistic, over one goal every two games. Although distancing himself to comparisons of Pele, it seems as though he would be the only player to possibly eclipse the legend’s gargantuan goal record. Providing he stays of course, which is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Neymar has managed to collect a total of 37 individual awards to his name, 35 of which have been associated with the Brazilian league. At the Club World Cup he picked up the bronze ball for third top scorer, but the one that really caught the attention of the world was when he won the FIFA Puskas award in 2011. Neymar’s stunning solo effort against Ronaldinho’s Flamengo showed, skill, strength, pace and a deft finish. Rightly winning the award, Neymar was the name on all the big clubs’ lips. However everyone seemed to be more looking forward to one game in 2011, the Club World Cup final with Santos versus Barcelona. It was a disappointing performance with Neymar going without a goal, and a match he was judged far too highly on. Critics took this performance too seriously, they seemed to forget that he was only 20 and playing against a Barcelona team in their prime. He hasn’t yet managed to get close to a Ballon D’or but it wont be too long before his name will be in lights. More recently, to silence his critics Neymar had a great 2012 Olympics, scoring four goals and assisting as many as three – he’d finally proved it on a bigger stage.
Currently Neymar has played 17 games in the 2013 season scoring 13 goals to continue his impressive record. He has also become an integral part of the Brazil national team making 31 appearances and notching 19 goals again showing he can do it on an even bigger stage. A stage which some criticise Lionel Messi for lacking in. Following on from Part 2 with the Brazil team, it could be that Brazil will be built around Neymar, this in return would rejuvenate the Joga Bonito style Brazil fans so dearly miss. To sum up the love of Neymar, when Dunga did not include him in the 2010 World Cup squad, 14,000 Brazilian fans signed a petition to get him in the squad.
So what does the future hold for Neymar? No one can deny that he has got serious talent, he’s done it enough times to prove so, especially after just turning 21. After rejecting a contract extension from Santos, Vice-President Odilio Rodrigues has resigned to the fact Neymar will leave. Speaking to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser he stated: “He has informed us that he won’t be renewing his deal because his time at Santos has come to an end.”
He is widely expected to leave after the 2014 World Cup with father and agent, Neymar Sr stating that Neymar would “close a chapter in his life” and “will then leave for Europe”. Barcelona’s chief transfer negotiator Andre Curry further added that “Neymar is Barcelona’s top choice, and I’m currently attending all Santos’ games” (ESPN).
Seemingly with only one destination in mind, Neymar will soon grace the pitches of La Liga. Before he does though, expect a magical World Cup, with another season’s experience under his belt, Neymar will show the world how good he really is.
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