From Street Footballer to Record-breaker


Neymar da Silva Santos Junior could surely never have foreseen the unfathomable riches that lay ahead when he first started kicking a ball with bare feet on the streets of Brazil

I t would not have taken long for the realisation to hit because, by the age of 11, Neymar was the worst-kept secret in Brazil was hounded by scouts from all the country’s top teams and his four-year stay with first club- Portuguesa Santista was coming to a swift end.

Fast forward 14 years and he is now the world’s most expensive player after Paris Saint-Germain agreed to pay Barcelona £199million – the amount in his release clause.

The fee is more than double the previous world record of £89m that Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba last summer and, according to some, is a deal we will not see the likes of in the next 50 years, let alone the next two or three. He will earn about £650,000 every seven days.

The only son of Neymar Santos Sr – a former professional footballer himself  and Nadine da Silva was born on February 5, 1992 in Mogi das Cruzes, a small city 40 kilometres east of Sao Paulo.

He has a younger sister, Rafaella and the family ties are extremely close. Neymar Sr has been both a mentor and coach to his son – he continues to work as the player’s agent while Neymar Jr has a tattoo of his sister’s face on his right arm and she has her brother’s eyes inked on to her left arm.

Neymar inherited his father’s footballing skills but it was his movement which set him apart from the other boys at his local club.

He had already fallen in love with his boyhood club Santos and Brazil great Zico had little trouble persuading him to sign for them in 2003.

Neymar dazzled through the age groups at Santos and talk of his talent soon reached Europe, with Real Madrid offering him the chance to join their academy when he was 14 – but he turned them down after Santos offered him more money.

Santos handed Neymar his senior debut aged 17 in 2009 and over the next four years he scored a total of 54 goals in 103 appearances for the club.

He helped them win successive Campeonato Paulista titles, the Copa do Brasil and the 2011 Copa Libertadores – Santos’ first continental title since 1963 – and was voted South American footballer of the year in both 2011 and 2012.

Neymar was a phenomenon. He cut his own hair Mohawk-style when he was 18, which set a new trend throughout Brazil and, when left out of the squad for 2010 World Cup finals, 14,000 fans signed a petition in a bid to get him included.

He was 19 when his ex-girlfriend Carol Dantas gave birth to his son, David Lucca, and they both moved to Barcelona to be closer to Neymar when the inevitable move to Europe was completed in 2013.

He has never been shy about cashing in on his stardom and endorses more than a dozen products, including a bank, a car manufacturer and perfume and this year he was placed third on Forbes magazine’s list of the highest-paid footballers behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

And Messi paid tribute to his team-mate yesterday, saying: “I wish you good luck in this new stage of your life.”

Neymar responded by saying: “Thank you brother. I will miss you uncle!”

But it has not been all sweetness and light at Barcelona. Neymar’s father is owed more than £23m by the club for helping to persuade his son to sign a new contract last October. But the Catalan club insists that “contract extension bonus” will not be paid until they get exactly what they want from PSG in the deal. PSG want their man, so that is not in any doubt.

In his three seasons in Catalunya, Neymar has helped Barca win La Liga twice, the Champions League once, the Copa del Rey on three occasions and the FIFA Club World Cup. And in March, Neymar inspired Barcelona to the 6-1 victory they needed to overturn a 4-0 first-leg defeat by PSG to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

So should he replicate that haul for PSG, can it really be considered money well spent?

Football Most Expensive Transfers

Neymar: Barcelona to PSG £200 2017

Paul Pogba: Juventus to Man Utd £89.3 2016

Gareth Bale : Tottenham to Real Madrid £85.3 2013

Cristiano Ronaldo: Man Utd to Real Madrid £80 2009

Gonzalo Higuain: Napoli to Juventus £75.3 2016

Romelu Lukaku: Everton to Man Utd £75 2017

Luis Suarez: Liverpool to Barcelona £75 2014

James Rodrigue: AS Monaco to Real Madrid £63 2014

Angel Di Maria: Real Madrid to Man Utd £59.7 2014

Zinedine Zidane: Juventus to Real Madrid £46.6 2001

How Neymar Compares with Messi, Ronaldo 

Much of Neymar’s motivation to leave Camp Nou reportedly stems from a desire to step out from the shadow of Lionel Messi and make his own push to win the Ballon d’Or. That honour has been claimed by ex-Barca team-mate, Messi and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for each of the past nine years. So, with Neymar blazing his own trail in the French capital in a bid to end their dominance, here is a  look at how his four seasons in Spain stack up with Messi and Ronaldo’s performances in all competitions over the same period.

105 – Neymar’s goal tally for Barcelona, by stark comparison Messi has scored 194 in the same timeframe and Ronaldo has found the net 205 times.

39 – He scored 39 times in his best season with Barca as they won the treble in 2014-15. That number still saw him fall some way short of the standard set by Messi and Ronaldo, though. Messi had 58 goals to his name while Ronaldo registered 61.

20 – Neymar scored just 20 goals in all competitions last season. Messi, meanwhile, hit home 54 times and Ronaldo was on target on 42 occasions to help Madrid to a LaLiga and Champions League double.

21 – The Brazilian did, however, top Messi and Ronaldo for assists in 2016-17. His 21 assists superior to the 16 produced by Messi and the 11 laid on by Ronaldo.

59 – But Neymar’s assist tally of 59 in four seasons was below that of Messi (77) and Ronaldo (61).

741 – Neymar’s number of dribbles completed was significantly more than that of Ronaldo (281) but still pales in comparison to Messi (880).

288 – In his first two seasons at Barca Neymar created 288 chances. In the same period Messi created 238 and Ronaldo just 168.

138 – However, in his last two campaigns, Neymar has created just 138 chances, still more than Ronaldo (131) but he was comfortably surpassed by Messi, who created 227.

Breakdown of Neymar’s Barcelona Career

After four seasons at Camp Nou, Neymar’s Barcelona career is over after a world-record €222million switch to Paris Saint-Germain. Barca won the race to sign the Brazilian from Santos in 2013 and, alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, he has since established himself as one third of one of the greatest attacking trios in the history of football. PSG triggered the €222m release clause in Neymar’s contract on Thursday to make him the leading man in Paris, ending a scintillating on-field relationship with the Catalan club. Below are the stand-out figures that have encouraged the Ligue 1 giants to part with a record-breaking sum and take the 25-year-old to the Parc des Princes.

105 – The number of times Neymar hit the back of the net in all competitions during his Barcelona career. Rivaldo is the only Brazilian to have scored more for the club (130).

59 – Add in this impressive number of assists and the 25-year-old was involved in 164 goals in his 186 appearances for the club.

7 – The amount of goals Neymar has scored against PSG. He has only converted more against Athletic Bilbao (8) and Villarreal (9).

6 – Villarreal’s Sergio Asenjo, formerly of Atletico Madrid, was beaten by Neymar more times than any other goalkeeper.

2 – Since his arrival at Barca ahead of the 2013-14 season, only Lionel Messi (204) and Sergio Busquets (196) have featured more times for the club.

15 – Neymar won a total of 15 penalties for Barca during his LaLiga career; only Cristiano Ronaldo (17) has earned more spot-kicks in the competition.

21 – The amount of assists supplied by the former Santos star in 2016-17, more than any other player based in LaLiga.

22 – Neymar set up more goals for Messi than any other team-mate during his time at the club.

6 – The Vicente Calderon was the away stadium at which the Brazilian proved most prolific, scoring six goals, including his first for the club in the 2013 Supercopa de Espana, away against Atletico Madrid.

41 – Suarez (21) and Messi (20) assisted 41 of the Brazilian’s goals for Barca, equivalent to 39.05 per cent.

431 – No individual has been fouled more times than Neymar across the top five European leagues since his arrival at Barca. Preparim Hetemaj (410) is the only other player to have drawn the referee’s whistle over 400 times in that span.

39 – Barca’s treble-winning 2014-15 season proved Neymar’s most prolific at Barcelona. The only other time he passed the 30-goal mark in four campaigns with the Catalan giants was 2015-16.

8 – With three Copa del Rey triumphs, two LaLiga wins, a Supercopa de Espana, one Champions League and Club World Cup glory in 2015, the 25-year-old won eight trophies across his Barca career.