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Player Profile: Neymar, a legend in the making

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Over the decades, Brazil has produced many world-class footballers in all positions, including Pele, Romario, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu.

The last Brazilian footballer to mesmerize the world was probably Ronaldinho, who became a big hit after joining Barcelona in 2003. His amazing performances for both club and country made him a sensation and he ended up picked up many personal accolades including two FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d’Or.

Since Ronaldinho, many promising players including Kaka and Robinho have emerged from Brazil, but none have been able to dominate world football.

However, it looks like Brazil has again finally produced another star in the form of Neymar, who has all the potential to become the next big name in world football.

Early Life

Neymar Jr was born on February 5, 1992 in São Paulo, Brazil. After showing considerable talent and flair a very young age, he was soon signed by Brazilian club Santos at the age of 11 in 2003.

According to some reports, after playing for a year in Santos youth teams, Neymar travelled to Spain to attend trials at different Spanish clubs. Although he reportedly got numerous offers after successfully passing the trials, Santos managed to convince their emerging star to stay until he turned professional.

Professional Career

Santos

Neymar finally made his first team debut for Santos in 2009 in a league game against Itápolis. He scored his first goal for Santos a week later during a league game against Mogi Mirim.

Although the striker did not win any silverware during his first season at Santos, everyone knew that he possessed something special.

The next season Neymar played a vital role, scoring 42 goals in 60 appearances in all competitions, to help his side win the Campeonato Paulista (the top flight league in São Paulo) and the Copa do Brasil (Brazilian Cup).

Although his performances attracted the attentions of many top European clubs, with Chelsea allegedly making an official move for the striker, Neymar remained in Santos after he was advised by Brazilian legend Pelé to stay put.

The following year, a lot of pressure was put on Neymar to perform even better, with the media already regarding him as the best footballer in Brazil.

Despite not being able to score as much as he did in the previous campaign, the striker played a key role as Santos retained their Campeonato Paulista title and won the Copa dos Libertadores (an annual international club football competition organized by CONMEBOL) for the first time in 48 years.

Neymar then went on to score the best goal of his career against Ronaldinho’s side Atletico Paranaense. That goal won him FIFA’s Puskás award in January 2012.

The following season would become the best of Neymar’s career, scoring 43 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions as Santos again retained their Campeonato Paulista title and won the Recopa Sudamericana (after defeating Chilean club Universidad de Chile in the finals)

Barcelona

After playing well in the first half of the 2013 season, Neymar finally completed his dream move to Europe, joining Barcelona for an estimated transfer fee of €57.1 million.

Overshadowed by like the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta at Barcelona, Neymar had a pretty average first season (2013/14) in Europe, scoring 15 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions.

The following season (2014/15), however, was much better for the Brazilian striker as he scored 39 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions to help Barcelona win a treble in the form of the La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions League.

Neymar has been even more impressive this season, leading the goal scoring charts in La Liga, with 14 goals from 12 appearances.

International Career

Neymar made his debut for the Brazilian senior team on August 2010 at the age of 18. He impressived on his debut, scoring a goal to help Brazil beat USA 2-0 in a friendly.

Neymar’s first major international tournament was the 2011 Copa América in Argentina. After being named the man of the match during Brazil’s first game against Venezuela, the striker went on to score two goals against Ecuador. However, he was unable to make an impact at the tournament with Brazil being eliminated from the quarter-finals after losing to Paraguay on penalties.

The striker’s next chance to shine on the international stage was at the 2012 Olympics in London, where he scored three goals in five games to help Brazil clinch the silver medal (losing to Mexico in the finals).

Neymar also scored his first international hat-trick in 2012 during Brazil’s 8-0 win over China in a friendly.

Following his impressive performances for Brazil in 2012, he was included in the 23-man squad for the 2013 Confederations Cup by Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The striker shone in the tournament, winning the Golden Ball (scoring four goals) to help Brazil beat Spain and lift the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was a bitter-sweet experience for Neymar. The striker was impressive in the group stages, scoring four goals to help his side reach the round of sixteen. In the round of sixteen, Brazil managed to beat Chile on penalties, and Neymar converted the last spot-kick to help his side reach the quarter-finals.

Brazil’s win over Colombia in the quarter-final, however, was not a pleasant experience for Neymar, who picked up a serious injury after being kneed in the back by Juan Camilo Zúñiga.

On being rushed to the hospital, it was revealed that Neymar would no longer be participating in the 2014 World Cup due to him suffering a fractured vertebra in his spine.

After Neymar’s injury, Brazil also exited the World Cup following a humiliating 1-7 defeat against Germany.

On his return, Neymar was named the new captain of Brazil. However, things did not go well for him in the 2015 Copa América, as he was slapped with a $10,000 fine and a four-match ban by the CONMEBOL during  Brazil’s second group game against Colombia. Neymar, who was already booked for a handball, was sent off after the end of the match after he intentionally kicked the ball at Pablo Armero following Brazil’s 0-1 defeat to Colombia.

Achievements

Despite his young age, Neymar has already won a lot of personal accolades that can rival the best players in the world. Here are some important trophies and personal awards he has won so far:

2011 Young Player of the Year (World Soccer Magazine)
2011 Best Player (Campeonato Brasileiro Série A)
2010, 2011, 2012 Golden Boot (Most goals in all competition in Brazil)
2011, 2012 South American Footballer of the Year
2011 FIFA Puskás Award
2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball
2014–15 Champions League Golden Boot (tied With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi)

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