Neymar

Born in Mogi Das Cruzes in Brazil, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is easily regarded as one of the best players of his generation. Some even consider him to be Brazil’s great hope and their best chance at another World Cup.

A brilliant attack-minded player, the Brazilian is and was once considered to be Lionel Messi’s heir for Barcelona before he became the most expensive player by moving to PSG.

Background

Like most Brazilians, Neymar is known for his great technical ability both on and off the ball, pace, incredible dribbling and his talent to consistently score goals. Not only that, his time as a street and futsal player has helped his professional career, but the Brazilian eventually choose football over futsal following in his father’s footsteps.

As a six-year-old, he signed for Portuguesa Santista, where he would stay for the next four odd years before making a move to Santos’ U20 side. He made his debut as a 17-year-old kid for Santos, before opening his account with the Brazil side a mere week later.

Neymar’s rise towards a potential Ballon d’Or has been incredible to say the least, with the 27-year-old dividing opinions like no other player on the planet, thanks in part to his antics and his sheer skill on the field.

Rise

After making his debut for Santos as a young 17-year-old, Neymar simply kept improving, finishing his debut season with 17 goals in 33 appearances. The goals kept coming over the next few years, with Neymar scoring or creating 26, 18, and finally 21 goals in just the Brazilian top tier alone.

Time and his talent saw him win two successive Campeonato Paulista Championships, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and was even named South American Footballer of the year twice. That combined with his Puskas Award for a rather incredible effort, and the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup Bronze ball all contributed with a move to Barcelona.

At the age of 21, Neymar joined a sensational history of Brazilians at Barcelona, following the likes of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Nazario, Rivaldo, Romario and so many others over the years. The former Santos star had huge boots to fill and with many considering him to be Messi’s heir and a potential helping hand towards what would be a footballing dynasty.

The move to the Camp Nou effectively shaped the young and impressionable 21-year old’s future, with him establishing himself among the upper echelons of footballers. However, the marriage didn’t have the best of starts to it, with the Brazilian struggling to adapt to a different league after joining from Santos. Many believed that the physicality that the Spanish league posses, made it harder for Neymar to adapt.

Despite all that, he still finished the season with 15 goals and another 15 assists, a rather remarkable turnout for a struggling star. But with time, Neymar slowly adapted to Barcelona and manager Pep Guardiola’s tactics, becoming a crucial cog in what has been described as one of football’s greatest trios, alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Together the three Barcelona stars combined to score a mammoth 364 goals in just 450 games, with Neymar a distant third with 90 goals. However, when considering the fact that the Brazilian was between the ages of 22-24 during that time, it simply puts things into perspective for everyone all over the world.

Putting aside the fact that the trio scored an impossible number of goals, MSN was one of the major reasons why Barcelona won 3 Copa Del Reys, 2 La Liga titles and 1 Champions League trophy. For Neymar however, many believe that it was during this time that the Brazilian played some of his best football, and came as close as anyone has ever been (before Luka Modric) to upsetting the Messi-Ronaldo Ballon d’Or duopoly.

He finished third at the end of the 2015/16 season, behind both Ronaldo and Messi, and yet the Brazilian’s best performance was yet to come for Barcelona.

Imagine this, it’s the 14th of February 2017 and Barcelona incredibly concede 4 goals to a rather rampant PSG side in the first leg of the Champions League last 16. A tough task for any side but for a team like Barcelona, it wouldn’t take too much. Things started well and soon Barcelona were 3-0 up, which is when Edinson Cavani scored a vital away goal for PSG.

This meant that Barcelona would have to match PSG’s 4-0 score-line and add two more goals to that, all in the space of 28 minutes. They struggled with even Lionel Messi failing to do much with the ball, and time was ticking down. With two minutes plus stoppage time left Neymar stuns Camp Nou with a sensational free-kick, adds the fifth goal with a coolly taken penalty before picking Sergi Roberto among the 20 players in the PSG box for the winning goal.

The game needed it’s hero and up stepped Neymar, with many claiming that this game and that performance was exactly why Barcelona made sure they added him and why PSG subsequently spent a world record sum for his services. While the move since has seen him receive immense criticism from fans, the Brazilian has continued to do what he does best.
Score goals and play great football no matter where he is.

At PSG, his stature in the football world has improved even more, with the Brazilian creating and scoring 77 goals in just 54 appearances for the Ligue 1 giants. This includes multiple injury spells, suspension issues and even holidays over the last two odd seasons.

International

As many before him and many after him, Neymar made his debut for Brazil as a young 18-year-old forward against the USA in a friendly game. The Brazilian is currently only 17 goals behind Pele who is Brazil’s all-time goal-scorer. Not only that since his debut for Brazil, Neymar has been key to Brazil’s success with his first trophy coming in the 2013 Confederation Cup.

Soon after that, with the World Cup returning to Brazil after a long absence, many expected Neymar and even Brazil to win lift the ultimate national honor. While the Brazilian was a superstar at his very best scoring four goals before a spinal injury forced him out of the tournament. Brazil suffered without their star, losing to Germany in the semi-finals and the rest is history.

Neymar was named as the captain for the 2015 Copa America but suspension issues ruled him out of the tournament after only the second game. Things went from bad to worse and while Brazil’s first Olympic gold at the 2016 Olympics did help with things, it was the 2018 World Cup that was always going to be the answer.

Arguably the Selecao’s best chance with Neymar being joined by the likes of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Douglas Costa and so many others, and yet it didn’t happen. Neymar for all his abilities was instead criticized for spending a large part of his time on the ground with many calling it play-acting.

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