Watching Match of the Day over the Internet reminds me that in writing a blog about Brazil i’ve yet to write anything about football.
Having celebrated their centenary year only two weeks ago, writing about Santos seems an obvious start, especially considering that it’s fairly impossible to talk about football in Sao Paulo without mentioning their 20 year old striker, Neymar.
Neymar is perhaps best known in British as the player who accused Scottish supporters of racism after a banana was thrown at him at a friendly game between Brazil and Scotland at the Emirates stadium in London on 27th March 2011.
The Tartan Army protested that Neymar was actually being booed because of his insistence at persistently feigning injury and, having seen Neymar in a number of games on television I think the Scots can be given the benefit of the doubt. The banana had actually been thrown by a german stood among Brazilian supporters who claimed he had no racist intentions. Neymar had the last laugh, however, scoring twice in Brazil’s 2-0 victory.
A big fairy Neymar might be but isn’t that just symptomatic of the modern game? Regardless of his theatrics there is absolutely no doubting that Neymar is an exceptional talent, probably the best player in the Sao Paulo state competition, currently reaching its climax, and arguably the best player in the Brazilian domestic league.
2011 South American footballer of the year, scoring 6 goals in 13 appearances in the Copa Libertadores, Neymar had already scored on his debut for Brazil against the USA in 2010 aged only 18, having been overlooked by Dunga for the South Africa World Cup. This season, Neymar has scored 13 goals in 13 appearances in the Campeonato Paulista and 5 goals in 7 appearances in the Copa Libertadores.
He won FIFA goal of the year for his goal against Flamengo (although Santos went on to lose 4-5). His success was in part due to fellow Red Bull sponsored sportsman, Sebastian Vettel asking his fans to vote for the goal which beat the likes of Rooney and Messi to win:
Here are the shortlisted goals:
And here’s Sebastian Vettel recomending it in a video that appeared on the Santos web site:
Does he look to you like it’s the first time he’s seen it?
Finally, here’s a clip that exhibits both his fancy footwork and theatrics:
So, if the lads so good why isn’t he playing in Europe?
Neymar would have you believe that it’s all to do with the weather. Or at least that’s what his sponsors would like us to think in a commercial in which Neymar, sitting on a sunny Brazilian beach, contemplates the freezing training grounds and seas of Europe, devoid of Brazilian fizzy beverages:
This ad has been cleverly remade on You Tube to suggest that the technical supremecy of Messi might be behind Neymar’s decision to stay in Brazil:
There’s no doubt that he’s certainly enjoying being a large fish in a small pond but there’s more to it than that. Last September Santos President, Luis Ribeiro, accused Real Madrid of attempting to sign Neymar to a pre-contract agreement and within two months ESPN reported that Santos had signed Neymar to a contract extension ensuring that he would stay at the club until after the 2014 world cup on a salary equivalent to what he would receive in Europe (an increase of 50%).
The fact the club is willing to make such an investment is evidence of the huge commercial value Neymar represents in Brazil. Neymar himself is reported to have an 11-year deal with Nike, $2.4m for a two year deal with Panasonic, was SportsPro’s 17th most marketable athlete in the world and has allegedly bought a £5million yacht.
So there’s very little incentive for him to move to Europe at the moment but no doubt following the 2014 World Cup the long anticipated move will become a reality and Neymar will finally be put to the test against the world’s greatest footballers.