Neymar

Comparisons have already started with Lionel Messi, the biggest South American star in the game
Football
HEADY TRIUMPH  At 21, Neymar is already among the ten richest footballers in the world (Photo: GUILLERMO ARIAS/CORBIS)

Brazil’s emphatic victory in the recent Confederations Cup was made possible by their wiry 21-year-old striker and playmaker Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, or just Neymar. Neymar achieved remarkable things in his club football career with Santos FC. But the Confederations Cup was the first time he lived up to his name for the national team. Fans of the Selecao, as Brazil are known, are excited because the World Cup is next year and Neymar seems to be peaking at the right time.

Neymar was named ‘player of the tournament’ at the Confederations Cup. He scored four goals in five matches, including a blazing left-footer in the roof of the net against Spain in the final, and created a few too. The tournament also saw him donning the team’s coveted No 10 jersey. Previously his shirt number was 11.

Things have happened quickly for Neymar. At 11, he was drafted into the Santos junior programme. At 14, he had an offer to go to the Real Madrid programme, but Santos paid him to stay. He made his senior team debut at 17. When the 2010 World Cup approached, 14,000 people created a signed petition that Neymar be picked for the tournament. But coach and former World Cup winner Dunga felt it was too soon for the teenager. Neymar made his Brazil debut a little after the World Cup, at age 18. He is already among the ten richest footballers in the world. Neymar did not wait long for fatherhood either, becoming a dad at age 19.

Just before the Confederations Cup, he joined Barcelona and was presented with pomp at the team’s Camp Nou stadium. Comparisons have already started with Lionel Messi, the biggest South American star in the game. Messi has been unable to win the World Cup for Argentina. Neymar’s fans hope that he doesn’t have to wait too long for that honour.