Many a young Brazilian has been burdened with the tag of the ‘new Pele’, but 18-year-old wonderkid Neymar is living up to the hype more than most. The forward, who plies his trade for Pele’s former club Santos, is arguably the most coveted young player in the world today, with Manchester City, Chelsea, West Ham United all reportedly in the hunt for his signature.
Neymar made his first-team breakthrough last March, and scored his first senior goal a week later. The forward swiftly established himself as a first-team regular at the Vila Belmiro, capping his debut season by landing himself the prestigious Campeonato Paulista Best Young Player award for 2009. However, it was during the 2010 season that Neymar really began to impress. The 18-year-old racked up 27 goals in just 29 starts, leading his side to the 2010 Campeonato Paulista title. The 18-year-old was rewarded for his efforts by being named Campeonato Paulista Best Player for 2010 in recognition of his scintillating form.
Despite his impressive form at club level, Neymar has yet to be capped at full international level. His exclusion from Brazil’s World Cup squad was met with widespread derision in the country, with fans and experts alike irritated by Dunga’s decision to omit Neymar’s flair and youthful exuberance from the side.
Capable of playing in a variety of attacking roles, Neymar has drawn many comparisons with current Santos team-mate and national side star Robinho. However, unlike the Manchester City man, Neymar has managed to marry his technical wizardry and lightning pace with a deadly eye for goal; 40 goals in just 74 appearances for Santos highlights Neymar’s prolific nature.
Desperate to keep hold of their new star, Santos have slapped a £28.4m price-tag on Neymar in order to ward off the 18-year-old’s suitors. Another potential stumbling for interested parties concerns the nature of Neymar’s current contract. Similarly to the way in which Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez were ‘owned’ by third-party group MSI, Neymar’s rights are part owned by Santos and part owned by third-party investors Grupo DIS. Current Premier League regulations prohibit third-party ownership, and as such, any interested club would have to buy the rights to Neymar’s ownership outright.
Thus far, West Ham United have been the only side to show concrete interest in the 18-year-old, with their recent bid of £12m rejected by Santos. Despite the fact that negotiations between the two sides are still ongoing, the player himself has expressed doubts over a move to England. Eager to avoid the fate that befalls so many South Americans who move to Europe too early, Neymar is thought to be happy to continue his development at Santos before moving on at a later date. Either way, I’m sure it won’t be too long before Neymar makes the move over from South America.
The following footage highlights Neymar’s astounding ability:
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