Neymar da Silva Santos Junior has become the world’s most expensive footballer after completing a €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona.
The huge price for the 25-year-old has sparked debate over the sport’s escalating transfer fees and, although he was destined for the top from an early age, Neymar could surely never have foreseen the unfathomable riches that lay ahead when he first started kicking a ball on the streets of Brazil.
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 onto 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.
By the age of 11, Neymar was the worst-kept secret in Brazil. He was hounded by scouts from all the country’s top teams and his four-year stay with first club Portuguesa Santista would soon end.
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 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.
Neymar is an Evangelical Christian and places great store in his faith. “Life only makes sense when our highest ideal is to serve Christ,” he once said in an interview.
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.
Now he has swapped the Nou Camp for the Parc des Princes, he could well eclipse both next year.
Brazil’s Neymar arrived in Paris on Friday following his world record transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, airport officials told AFP.
The superstar forward, who moved for €222 million euro, arrived at Le Bourget airport and was seen leaving a private jet and getting into a car which joined a motorcade heading towards the city centre, the sources said.
He is due to be presented at a press conference at the Parc des Princes at 1130 GMT on Friday.
Neymar leaves his home in Barcelona earlier today to go to the airport before his flight to Paris. pic.twitter.com/OAYV3ma07R— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 4, 2017
Brazilian superstar Neymar was expected in the French capital early Friday, promising to bring glory to Paris Saint-Germain after signing a world record transfer deal with the ambitious Qatari-owned club.
The 25-year-old forward doubled the previous record fee with his €222 million move from Barcelona and will earn a reported €30 million a year under the new deal.
“I am extremely happy to join Paris Saint-Germain,” Neymar said late Thursday.
“Since I arrived in Europe, the club has always been one of the most competitive and most ambitious. And the biggest challenge, what most motivated me to join my new teammates is to help the club to conquer the titles that their fans want.
“Paris Saint-Germain’s ambition attracted me to the club, along with the passion and the energy this brings. I played four seasons in Europe and I feel ready to take the challenge.
“From today, I will do everything I can to help my new teammates, to open up new horizons for my club and to bring happiness to its millions of supporters around the world.”
PSG said that Neymar will appear at a press conference at the club’s Parc des Princes at 1130GMT on Friday.
He will then be presented to fans at the same ground at 1345GMT on Saturday before the season-opening Ligue 1 fixture against promoted Amiens.
PSG wasted no time in pressing Neymar’s commercial value by announcing that shirts bearing his name will be on sale from 10h00 am (0800 GMT) Friday at the club’s megastore on the city’s iconic Champs Elysees.
Football legend Pele congratulated Neymar on his move, telling his successor in the famed Brazilian number 10 shirt: “Good luck for your new challenge”.
“Paris is a beautiful city and one of my favourites in the world,” three-time World Cup winner Pele wrote on Twitter.
The transfer is more than double the previous world record set by Manchester United’s capture of Paul Pogba from Juventus last year for €105 million euros, leaving many commentators aghast at the rampant inflation in football transfer fees.
Leading coaches such as Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger and Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho lamented that the move could cause even greater inflation in transfer fees and player wages.
“It also looks like the inflation is accelerating,” said Wenger, whose 21 years at Arsenal have been characterised by prudent spending.
“It’s beyond calculation and beyond rationality.”
However, in the French capital there is huge excitement at PSG having landed a star name to finally make them feared among European football’s elite with even French president Emmanuel Macron enthused.
“It adds attractiveness. Yes, it’s good news,” said Macron.
“Paris at his feet”, splashed Le Parisien as Neymar dominated the French front pages Friday.
“A king comes to Paris,” crowed L’Equipe newspaper.
The mood is understandably more sombre in Barcelona where attention has turned to who the Catalans can sign to replace Neymar in the month before the transfer window closes.
Neymar’s Brazilian international teammate Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele have both been linked.
There is also scepticism at the role played by PSG’s owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) at a time of political crisis for the energy-rich state which has been boycotted by its Gulf neighbours in recent months and will play host to the World Cup in 2022.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo described the move as a “state signing.”
Spain’s La Liga initially refused to accept payment for Neymar’s buyout clause in a bid to stall the move over allegations of transfer irregularities, but Neymar’s ex-teammates wished him well.
“My friend I wish you the best in everything that comes!!!” Luis Suarez posted on Instagram alongside a picture of the two hugging.
“Also thank you for your support, for everything that I learned with you and for the unique moments that we spent together!!!! Keep like this and never change love you little bro.”
Provided by AFP