Birthday Bash : Neymar’s journey to become Brazil’s top icon


As Neymar turns 24, we present an unusual take on probably the greatest Brazilian footballer born in the ’90s.

A few years back, I was watching the highlights of the Copa Libertadores Cup final and some skinny guy scored a goal and the commentator went nuts. The commentary was in Spanish and like every goal one commentator went like ” Goal Goal Goal…. Goal!!!” and other one said something which translates into this –
“Skillful, incredibly skillful .. Unstoppable. The best Brazil has seen in last 10 years!!”

I was like, “Really?”. Because I had seen best of Kaka, Ronaldo Nazario de Lima and Ronaldinho. I have seen the glimpses of Cafu, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. I just thought, he must have overstated him. The goal was not great. It was a good goal – without controlling  the ball, he curled it past the keeper through the first post. It surely indicated the attitude and finishing of any good striker.

But after few years, I have changed my mind and I can state that he is the best young player on this planet right now. Hope you have guessed – It’s none other than Neymar Jr.
I would not state that right now that he is the best of Brazil in last few years. But the way, he is scoring and breaking records for the national side, it won’t be long before he becomes the top scorer.

Neymar is the only Brazilian footballer to appear on the cover of the prestigious Time magazine and only other Brazilians who made it to the Time magazine cover, are politicians. Greats like Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho had never appeared on the cover, which just proves how much is his worth to the football industry. He was in top six earners in football by the end of 2012, long before his move to Brazil.

Many Brazil fans still mourns on Dunga’s decision to not include Neymar in the 2010 Fifa World Cup squad, even when legends like Romario insisted to take him to South Africa. If there was any doubt about his presence in the Brazil squad, it should have been cleared after the 7-1 loss to Germany. Brazil never got their heads up in the game and were demoralized only after conceding the first one as Neymar was their only ticket to success.

Let’s talk about his individual major honours. He was awarded with the Golden Ball in the Confederations Cup. He won the South American Footballer of the Year for two consecutive times (2012 and 2013). In 2013, The Guardian ranked him as the sixth best player in the world. SportsPro announced him as the most marketable athlete both in 2012 and 2013. He won the Puskas award back in 2011 for his incredible goal for Santos.

His start with Barcelona was not that great. He was not able to cope up with the hyped expectations. In a much more physical La Liga, Neymar struggled very much. He was continuously accused of diving on the pitch. But things have changed. He has become stronger and a better footballer. His partnership with Messi and Suarez might be one of the best partnerships that the world has ever seen. There is no doubt he has become an asset for Barcelona with the leadership that he showed this season during Messi’s absence. He has scored to seal the game in Champions League final against Juventus. In short, he is just an amazing player.

After the departure of Ronaldinho, the world has not seen the samba dance on the pitch very much. He is one of the last of the Brazilian species, who dances with the ball in his feet. Some might call him a bit showboaty, but they also can not deny that he always does it with ease and success. Remember when Barcelona were leading 3-1 in the Copa Del Ray final against Atletico Bilbao last season? Neymar received the ball on the left end of the pitch. He then dodged one and chipped over the other defender’s head before the defender had to put a harsh challenge to stop him. Some called it insulting as he was toying with the much weaker opponent. But, I found it amusing. Football freestyle in a cup final? That’s the dream.

He is also very down to earth. Reason behind his down to earth nature?
“Life only makes sense when our highest ideal is to serve Christ!” he said in an interview. And I guess everyone remembers when he put on the “100% Jesus” band on his head after winning the Champions League final last year. There are not many who has not seen the video of him interacting with the fans. He hugged and lifted a young fan, who invaded the pitch, after the game. Those are the things that make a great footballer a great person too.
Reports are coming out of enquiring Neymar on the basis of fraud allegations in Brazil. But , I guess every thing will clear out soon as no one wants to see him in the bench, let alone in the court.

Neymar has already made his way into the top three of the Ballon d’Or list and if everything goes to plan, he will surely win his first Ballon d’Or trophy pretty soon.

With a hope that Neymar will all the possible accolades soon, Sports-nova wishes the Brazilian superstar a very happy birthday!!

Photo by jikatu