With Ronaldo now having reached 30, it makes you realize that the exquisite football that he and Lionel Messi have been bringing us won’t go on forever. They will both still provide us with breathtaking performances for a number of years to come and show no sign of slowing just yet, but soon it will be time for a new class of players to dominate the big stage. Leading this new class of players is 23-year-old Brazilian star Neymar Jr (who happens to share Ronaldo’s February 5th birthday). Neymar has exploded onto the footballing scene in the last few years, and is already considered by many to be one of the current best footballers in the world. On his day this is difficult to deny, and the future looks very bright for the Barcelona forward/winger.
Coming from such a fine footballing country, it is hugely impressive that he currently sits 5th on the highest goalscoring list for Brazil. His dazzling performances have drawn heavy praise from the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Ronaldinho, with some even comparing his skillset to Pele, who has also praised the young star. Neymar has the whole package; he is quick, possesses fantastic dribbling skills, can pick a pass and he is more than capable of finishing with either foot. Playing at a club like Barcelona and alongside some of the best in the world since joining in 2013 will only help his progress, as will his important role that he plays in the national team.
Despite his young age, Neymar is already one of the wealthiest athletes in the world and also one of the most marketable with an enormous fanbase around the world. We are sure to know a lot more about the Brazilian over the next few years, but here are 15 interesting facts which you may or may not have heard before about Neymar.
15 He became a comic book character in 2013
Not many people get to say they have their own comic book, but in 2013 Neymar teamed up with top Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa to bring the world a comic book with Neymar as the main character. The first issue is called “A Boy with Talent”, and it portrays Neymar as a youngster playing football with his friends. Mauricio de Sousa admitted to becoming frustrated in the creation of the comic book because of Neymar constantly changing hair. The comic book has helped boost Neymar’s popularity with younger kids, and he joins the likes of Pele, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo to join the comic book world.
14 He is the only Brazilian athlete to be on the cover of Time Magazine
Time Magazine is undoubtedly one of the most famous magazines around the world, and has had the most famous faces in the world grace its cover. Appearing on the cover indicates a person’s fame, notoriety and notability, with all the leading politicians, actors, scientists, innovators, sports figures and other important people being faces of the magazine at one point or another. You can add Neymar to that exclusive list, as he became the first Brazilian athlete to be on the cover of the magazine in 2013. Along with his portrait, the cover claimed him to be “The Next Pele”.
13 He is currently dating Spanish lawyer Elisabeth Martinez
Being the huge star he is, Neymar is constantly being linked to a number of stunning women. Neymar is now seeing Spanish lawyer Elisabeth Martinez, with some reports stating that they have been seeing each other for a few months. Martinez is a huge Barca fan and known for taking selfies of herself in the Barcelona shirt. Before her, Neymar has dated Serbian model Soraja Vucelic, Brazilian model Gabriella Lenzi and actress/model Bruna Marquezine. It’s a tough life.
12 He was labelled the most marketable athlete in the world
Neymar was named the Eurosport’s Most Marketable Athlete in the world for both 2012 and 2013, becoming the first person to retain this title. The criteria for this is based on their marketing potential over a three year period, and includes factors such as value for money, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal. Neymar is hugely marketable and as successful off the pitch as he is on it, and has signed deals with L’Oreal, Gulliver, Nike and other endorsements that pay him around $16 million each year.
11 On his 20th birthday he scored his 100th professional goal
Becoming 20 is quite a landmark as it marks the end of your teenage years, so many people will celebrate this one in style. Not quite in the style that Neymar managed however, who bagged his 100th professional goal in a game against Palmeiras on the big day. Playing for Santos at the time, it was only his 186th game for the club; hugely impressive for such a young player. To celebrate this joyous occasion, Neymar’s teammates covered him in cake ingredients after the game.
10 He became a father at just 19 years old
In August of 2011, when Neymar was just 19 years old, his girlfriend at the time gave birth to their son. David Lucca da Silva Santos was born in Sao Paulo and weighed 2.81 pounds. Initially the identity of the mother was kept a secret to protect her, but they soon changed their mind and the mother was revealed as Carolina Nogueira Dantas. The pair are no longer together, but share custody of David Lucca evenly. This means that you will often see Neymar with his son after games and he often posts photos of him and his son together on social media.
9 He is heavily tattooed
Like a number of other professional athletes, Neymar has a number of tattoos all over his body. He has words such as “Blessed” on his back, “everything passes” on his neck, “boldness”, “happiness” and the names of family members plus a few others. He also has praying hands on his left forearm, a cross with “Corinthians – 9:24-27”, a diamond above this cross, a crown and plenty more which he seems to add to regularly. As you can see, most of Neymar’s ink is related to his Christian faith and his family.
8 The first club to make a bid for him was West Ham
Back in 2010, when Neymar was on the brink of stardom he could have joined West Ham for around £12 million. His name was on the radar of the biggest clubs, but it could have been The Hammers that got his signature back in 2010. Santos, and potentially Neymar’s family, was reluctant to make the move however, and it would be a few years before Barcelona swooped in for him for around £50 million. It is interesting to think how things might be different for West Ham and the Brazilian had the deal gone through, but Neymar in claret and blue was never meant to be.
7 He nearly died in a car accident as a baby
When Neymar was just an infant at four months, he and his family were nearly killed when they were hit by an oncoming car in heavy rain. Neymar was in the back seat in a baby chair, but after the collision his parents could not find him and feared he was thrown from the vehicle. He was found by the people that rescued them under the seat, covered in blood with a deep cut on his head. Fortunately there were no fatalities and everyone recovered from the accident, which still haunts Neymar Sr. to this day.
6 He initially struggled to break into the national team
Neymar has become the face of the Brazilian team and many proclaimed that it would be him that would lead Brazil to glory last summer in the World Cup (a disappointing competition as it turned out for the host nation). This was not always the case however, as four years earlier Neymar struggled to break into the team despite overwhelming support. He was snubbed for the 2010 World Cup by former Brazil coach Dunga, despite his impressive form at Santos which prompted support from Pele, Romario and Zico to include him. In addition to their support, there were also billboards and a petition which collected 14,000 signatures to include the young star. Brazil only made the quarter finals and Dunga was consequently sacked.
5 He won the South American Footballer of the Year in 2011 and 2012
In both 2011 and 2012, Neymar took home the prestigious South American Footballer of the Year award, which is awarded to the best South American footballer playing in South American leagues. This is particularly impressive considering his very young age, but also when you factor in that he beat out players such as Paulo Guerrero, Lucas, Ronaldinho and Fred to the award. Neymar also became the first player since Juan Sebastian Veron to repeat the award (2008 and 2009). Neymar was playing for Santos at the time, and was denied winning for the 3rd consecutive year by Ronaldinho (Neymar had moved to Barcelona for the 2014 award). There are only three players to ever win the award three times, Elias Figueroa, Zico and Carlos Tevez.
4 He won Goal of the Year in 2011
The FIFA Puskas Award is given to the player to score the most beautiful goal of the year, and since its inception in 2009 there have been some stunning strikes that have earned players the award. Neymar won the 2011 award with his extraordinary effort against Flamengo for Santos, where Neymar pulled off a breathtaking piece of skill to leave his defender in the dust before slotting into the corner despite tackles from a defender and the goalkeeper. He fought off competition from Messi and Rooney to the award. Neymar joins other winners Cristiano Ronaldo, Hamit Altintop, Miroslav Stoch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and 2014’s winner James Rodriguez.
3 He is on pace to break Pelé’s Brazilian goalscoring record
Neymar already sits an impressive 5th on Brazil’s all-time scorers for the national team, despite being just 23 years old. He has 40 goals to his name so far in 59 games, but has often been criticized for his play for Brazil. He managed to silence critics by guiding the team to victory in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and impressed at the World Cup before having his tournament cut short by a nasty injury. Pelé tops the list of Brazil’s top goalscorers with 77, and at this rate Neymar will break the record by the time he is 28. Pelé was 2 months older than Neymar by the time he reached where Neymar is now, and if he keeps it up then he will go down as one of the all-time greats in world football.
2 At 23, Neymar has over double the goals Ronaldo had at the same age
As mentioned earlier, Neymar shares a February 5th birthday with Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo reached the big 30, whilst Neymar is seven years his junior at 23. With Ronaldo hitting such a big landmark there has been an enormous focus on what he has achieved so far in his career, and rightfully so, as it has been nothing short of extraordinary. This seems to have eclipsed Neymar’s accomplishments however, and there is one in particular which is worth our attention.
Looking at career goals by their 23rd birthdays, Neymar has scored a staggering 219 goals for Santos and Barca, whilst Ronaldo had reached 107 by that same age. This gives Neymar a goals per game ratio of 0.61, and Ronaldo 0.31. It is of course difficult to compare the two as they have had very different journeys, but it is certainly a statistic that is worth taking note of and will raise a few eyebrows.
1 His annual income is approximately $32 million
Neymar is one of the best paid athletes in the world, and earns a staggering amount for someone who's just 23 years old. He will get $74 million in salary over five years and also had a $13 million signing bonus when he joined Barcelona. His endorsements for companies like L’Oreal, Police Sunglasses, Gulliver and Castrol also earn him around $16 million, seeing him make around a jaw dropping $32 million for the year with his yearly Barcelona salary at $17 million. Neymar leads a luxurious lifestyle, but his father makes sure he stays grounded and controls his finances by giving him a monthly allowance.