Neymar quadruple has big clubs salivating
He only turns 19 next week, but the scouts from the big European clubs have Neymar da Silva Santos in their sights once more after a four-goal salvo for Brazil at the South American U-20 Championship 2011 in Peru.
Neymar has clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester United in a lather after his quadruple saw off Paraguay with a 4-2 scoreline and a clutch of agents are touting for business with at least four Italian sides also reportedly chasing after his signature. Chelsea were first out of the blocks in the summer, making an initial bid of €35m but Neymar elected to stay put for now in the belief it is too early to make the move to Europe.
The nimble forward-cum-winger currently plays for Santos, who know a little about breeding star names having produced not just Robinho but a certain Pele. The legendary Pele may have won a FIFA World Cup™ winner's medal when even younger than Neymar but the latter has a precocious array of skills and Santos have a battle on their hands if he is to see out his contract through to 2015.
Many in Brazil consider the teen with the "Mohican" style haircut as a huge star in the making - even if he himself eschews comparisons with Pele - further comparisons have been made with late 1950s and early 1960s wideman Garrincha, Brazil's 'Anjo de Pernas Tortas' (Angel with Bent Legs). Neymar was keen to play down his widely acclaimed individual brilliance after the win over Paraguay, saying Monday: "Brazil can score goals. We played very well against an excellent Paraguayan side. I am very happy."
But it has not always been sweetness and light for the teen. Last year, Santos fined him for insulting both players and officials at Santos, including his skipper Edu Dracena. Even so, his influence is growing as coach Dorival Junior was sacked just days after refusing to bow to demands at boardroom level to start him in a match against Corinthians.
His temperamental nature has to date acted as a brake on his progression to the full squad under new coach Mano Menezes, who left him off the squad which travelled to Europe for October friendlies even after he had been called up for an August friendly against USA - he scored in a 2-0 victory.
But it is unlikely he will stay outside the full international side's orbit for much longer. He will not feature in a 9 February friendly against France at Stade de France, but that is primarily because the Under-20 side will need his goalscoring exploits through - they hope - to a 12 February final. Any recall by Menezes will mean the youngster first has to show Monday's salvo was no fluke and go on to impress in remaining group games against Columbia, Bolivia and Ecuador.