From the favelas of Brazil to the UEFA Champions League Final, Neymar has defied the odds to become one of the greatest wingers of all time. Renowned for his scintillating dribbling and frightening pace, he is unplayable on his day as he takes apart defences with an effortless grace.
Born in Mogi das Cruzes of Brazil, he was given the full name “Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior”, known now as Neymar Jr, he grew up with his father who had previously been a professional footballer and now his father takes care of the financial side of Neymar’s career. It would be fair to say that he did not have the rosiest of childhoods, his family were poor, and his father had to work in multiple jobs at a time just to provide his family with food. However, it did not take long for Neymar to find a passion as from a young age, he became obsessed with playing futsal, an indoor football game with a hard ball that does not bounce much. This will have been a huge influence on how he was able to develop his quick feet, speed and technique in tight areas on the pitch.
In 2003, Neymar and his family moved to Santos and soon after, he joined his 1st football team, Santos FC and soon after was given his 1st contract as joined the academy. 5-6 years were spent in the academy, including a trip to Spain, where Neymar tried out for Spanish giant, Real Madrid, but his father was against the idea of this and made Neymar pursue his growth in Brazil.
At the age of 17, Neymar made his professional debut on the 7th of March 2009. Not only was this great for the development of his footballing career, but life at home was now greater than it had ever been as a steady income was coming each month. One week later he scored his 1st ever goal against Mogi Mirim, the goal that fuelled an impressive 1st season in professional football. In 48 appearances, with many coming from the bench, he had scored 14 goals.
In the following season, Neymar reach heights that 18-year olds can only dream about as he tore apart the domestic league and cup competitions. Starting with an 8-1 win over Guarani, in which Neymar scored 5 , he ended the Campeonato Paulista with a staggering 14 goals in 19 games, helping Santos win the final along the way. With early comparisons of the likes of Robinho and Pele, he received interest from clubs all over Europe and the 1st to bite the cherry were English Premier League side, West ham United. They put in a £12 million bid which was ultimately rejected, alongside a £20 million bid put forward by Chelsea and whilst some stated that Neymar was frustrated in having to stay in Brazil; Neymar revealed later on that “it had been the right decision to stay in Brazil”.
As the 2010 season commenced, Neymar scored 42 goals in 60 games and in the following season, he scored a goal which would go on to win the Puskas Award. An award which is given at the end of each calendar year to the best goal scored across the world. Neymar won this thanks to a dazzling run against Flamengo. After 2 more years of destroying Brazilian careers, Neymar intended to leave for a European team. On the 24th of May 2013, Santos announced that they had received 2 offers for the young man and just a couple of days later, it was announced that Neymar had joined Barcelona. The transfer fee was over £50 million and there was a release clause inducted into the contract, set at 190 million euros.
Neymar made his competitive debut for Barcelona in a 7-0 win over Levante, as he came off the bench and just a couple of weeks later, he scored his 1st goal for the club, a header met by a Dani Alves cross. He didn’t start that many games this season as his and the clubs focus was to get Neymar physically up to speed with the game in Europe. Therefore, his next season was much better at Barcelona who scored 38 goals, provided 11 assists in just 51 games. Barcelona had secured the league title by the 17th of May and still had a Spanish Cup Final and a UEFA Champions League Final to play. On the 6th of June, Neymar scored and helped Barcelona to a 3-1 win in the Champions League over Juventus and Barcelona also defeated Atletico Madrid 3-1 in the Spanish Cup final, ensuring the treble was theirs.
In the next two and the final season with Barcelona, he took his goal tally over the century mark to 105 goals scored and finished with 76 assists. He also added 2 more La Liga titles and 2 more Copa Del Rey titles to his name before he left his exquisite partnership of him, Suarez and Messi, to join Paris Saint-German.
His move to Paris Saint-German, in 2017/2018, was the most expensive transfer of all time, consisting of over £200 million. In his debut season with PSG, he suffered multiple injuries and therefore only played 30 games in all competitions. However, in these 30 games, he did score a total of 28 goals and picking up 16 assists along the way. It is definitely most frightening when you think about how many goals he could have scored that season without the problems he faced.
In the 2019/2020 season, he sustained even more injuries and because of the cancellation of the French League due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Neymar was not able to have a vey prolific season. However, behind closed doors, Neymar did help PSG reach the Champions League Final where they narrowly fell to a 1-0 defeat to German side Bayern Munich. Into his stint so far, he has scored 72 goals in 91 appearances, for PSG, the best goals per game ratio of any club he has been at so far.
For the Brazilian National Team, its been a mixed bag for Neymar so far. The 2014 World Cup was the 1st big tournament that he played in for his National side. Whilst Neymar played extraordinary well in the campaign, it was overshadowed by a 7-1 defeat in the semi-finals to Germany. The 2015 Copa America saw Neymar receive a 4-match ban, in just the 2nd game of the campaign after kicking a ball at a player deliberately.
The 2018 World cup saw Neymar become Brazil’s 3rd highest goal scorer behind just Pele and Ronaldo, however, they were eliminated by Belgium in the quarter-finals.