Hailed as a prodigy since his early teens and a much-talked about figure on the international football scene for years now, Neymar would appear at first glance to be a seasoned veteran. Yet in real terms, we are still in the formative phase of the career of a striker who is, at the tender age of 22, already seen as A Seleção’s leading man.
His ability with the ball at his feet, be it in exhilarating short dribbles or long mazy runs, is what strikes you most about the winner of the FIFA Puskás Award for 2011’s finest goal, along with a finalist for the same award in 2012 and 2013. But that is by no means the only way the versatile attacker can break down even the most stubborn of defences.
Having evolved as a player year in year out, Neymar is also now a threat from distance with either foot, an adept penalty-area opportunist and a fine provider of chances for his team-mates, even in the tightest of situations. A complete package, the seemingly tireless front-runner is also the subject of frequent praise from coaches due to his impressive commitment to the game, whatever the occasion.
Averaging two trophies a year with club side Santos in 2010, 2011 and 2012 – the highlights being wins in the 2010 Copa do Brasil and 2011 Copa Libertadores – Neymar, now a Barcelona star, was also a member of the Brazil squad that claimed silver at the Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. With his almost limitless potential, the fleet-footed forward is well aware of the expectations on his shoulders ahead of his first FIFA World Cup™.
“The pressure is really great. Wherever we play there’s always pressure, but it’s going to be even greater on home soil,” he told FIFA.com. “We’re aware of that, but we enjoy it – it’s a good type of pressure. I’ve been fortunate enough to play in the finals of various championships, and feeling that pressure to win is marvellous. We’re ready for all of that, as it’s something Brazilian players take in their stride."