Five things on Neymar Jr
Neymar Jr might have joined Real Madrid before he became a global superstar at Barcelona, could do anything with a football at a young age, but couldn’t boil an egg, and is living up to his world record transfer fee at Paris Saint-Germain.
ligue1.com takes a closer look at PSG’s brilliant Brazilian.
1) Beckham is a fan
Had Neymar arrived at the Parc des Princes a lot earlier, he could have teamed up with David Beckham, who brought the curtain down on his career with PSG in 2013. The former England captain played with some of the world’s best during his time at Manchester United, Real Madrid and PSG: Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So he should know a great player when he sees one, and he has always been impressed by Neymar.
“It’s been clear ever since he signed for Brazilian team Santos at 17 that Neymar is an outstanding talent, a once-in-a-generation type of footballer who has fans on their feet whenever he gets the ball,” Beckham told TIME magazine when they included Neymar in their ‘100 Most Influential People’ of 2017.
“I’ve always been struck by his humility. He’s respectful and wants to learn, which he proved when he arrived at Barcelona in 2013 to play alongside some of the game’s biggest stars.”
WATCH: Neymar Jr takes Guingamp apart
2) In the name of the father
Neymar is actually Neymar da Silva Santos Jr, taking his first name from his father. Neymar Sr. worked three jobs — car mechanic, bricklayer, and municipal employee — while his wife, Nadine, worked as a cook in a childcare centre to help raise Neymar and his two siblings in Sao Paulo where his son’s talent, not his physical stature, impressed.
“They were very dismissive, the other boys,” he said. “‘Who is this little kid?’ But I managed to convince them to let me play that first time, and I scored a goal. That changed their attitude. That changed everything.”
3) Neymar joins Madrid…nearly
What did change everything is when the family moved from Mogi das Cruzes where Neymar was born — also the birthplace of Brazil’s first MLB player, Yan Gomes — to another Sao Paulo neighbourhood, Santos, in 2003.
Spotted by Zito, a double World Cup winner with Brazil and a Santos legend, Neymar joined the club where Pepe, Robinho and most notably Pele had started their careers. At 14, Real Madrid invited him for a trial. Neymar went, but didn’t stay. “We’re from a humble family, and in a humble family there is always the question of cultural values,” Neymar Sr. said. “We thought he had to grow up in Brazil. That was the first serious choice we had to make.”
4) Please release (clause) me
With the young talent secure on a professional deal at 17, Santos’ only serious choice was ‘When do we get him into the first team?’ Like a child with a Christmas gift, they could not wait long to play with their new and supremely talented toy, handing him his first-team debut in March 2009 at the age of 17, just a year older than Pele had been when he made his senior bow for the club in 1956.
The 2009-10 season was when EVERYONE started taking notice as he fired 14 goals in just 19 games for Santos in the Campeonato Paulista. Chelsea made an enquiry, while another English Premier League side, West Ham United, reportedly had a $15.5 million offer rejected. “Our position is clear, we do not open negotiations,” said Pedro Luiz Nunes, Santos’ sporting director. “These athletes only leave the club by paying the release clause.” That was — for a talented but untested teenager — a weighty $36.8 million.
5) Cooking hell
Alongside his football career, Neymar has a cascade of endorsement deals from boot suppliers to video games. He promotes Brazilian music, and has even played himself in a feature film. He has lots of fingers in lots of pies, but you won’t find him actually making any pies in the kitchen. “I only know how to make scrambled eggs myself,” he has admitted.
Indeed, Neymar put all his eggs in one basket: making a success of being a footballer. “If my son were not a soccer player today,” said his father, “he would be unemployed.” It’s a good thing the football is working out quite nicely then.