Neymar: The next big thing
Ahead of the Club World Cup final between Barcelona and Santos, we take a look at a player described recently by Pele as being even better than Lionel Messi.
Date of birth: February 5, 1992 (age 19)
Place of birth: Mogi das Cruzes, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Height: 1.75m (5ft 9in)
Current club: Santos
Former clubs: None
Background: A succession of Brazilian forwards have been forced to shoulder the expectations of a nation since Pele finally retired from international duty in 1971. Some have flourished, some have floundered, but now a country's glorious attacking legacy has fallen squarely at the feet of a 19-year-old who, according to the great Pele himself no less, is a superior player to even Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Multi-million pound bids from Chelsea and Real Madrid have already been spurned by the forward, who says he wants to help Santos celebrate their centenary year in 2012, but a move to one of Europe's finest clubs looks to be inevitability for a player who has proved in his two years in Brazilian football that he is one of the most outstanding talents to emerge from the country in many a year.
Neymar is a product of the same Santos youth set-up that honed Pele and made his debut for the Brazilian club as a 17-year-old. Showing ever more frequent flashes of genius, either out wide or through the middle, he embellished his reputation when winning the Campeonato Paulista in 2010 and being named player of the tournament. Chelsea made a £23 million offer for the forward in August 2010, only to be rebuffed as Neymar sought to continue his career in his home country.
It was the correct decision, demonstrated by his success in helping Santos to win the 2011 Copa Libertadores - a competition they had not triumphed in since Pele's heyday in 1962 and 1963. Offers continued to fly in, most notably from Real Madrid who thought they had secured the signing of the most promising player outside of Europe, but again he delighted supporters in Brazil by pledging to remain with Santos.
Though he does have a tendency to attract controversy, the regularity with which Neymar scores frankly ridiculous goals ensures his reputation remains largely impeccable. His international exploits have also been impressive, the highlight of his eight goals in 15 appearances being a memorable two-goal performance against Scotland at Emirates Stadium that only enhanced his standing in Europe.
Along with Santos team-mate Ganso - another prodigiously talented young player with whom he shares an innate understanding on the pitch - Neymar was tipped as an outsider to travel to the 2010 World Cup but was overlooked by Dunga. Under his successor Mano Menezes, Neymar has been rapidly installed as the attacking focal point of the Selecao. Brazil expects big things from the latest model off the production line.
Approximate value: £40m
|Analysis from Kashiwa Reysol 1-3 Santos in the Club World Cup on December 14
2' - Just a couple of minutes into the contest and Neymar indulges in some juggling before then performing a succession of stepovers as he signals his intent to entertain.
6' - Reysol defender Naoya Kondo makes a mess of an attempted clearance and Neymar is lurking to poke a low effort off the post.
20' - Santos take the lead as Neymar scores with a stunning effort. After collecting a pass from Ganso, the forward executes a drag-back to take Hidekazu Otani out of the game before bending a glorious effort into the top corner.
52' - Neymar skips away down the left wing and plays in Danilo with a fantastic sliding pass to the right of the box. The right-back sees his effort saved.
54' - Neymar is involved in a flowing move with Ganso and after the completion of a tidy one-two the latter sees a curling effort saved by the keeper.
58' - Upon receiving a pass from Ganso, again, Neymar slips away from his marker with a lovely piece of skill before flicking a pass down the line for Borges.
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