Regarded as one of the most exciting talents to hit the international stage in years, Neymar has the world at his feet. Dubbed “the new Pele” by the great man himself, the young forward has been quickly amassing plaudits since his Santos debut aged 17 and is now the focal point of an emerging Brazil team desperate to claim victory on home soil at the 2014 World Cup. His quick-footed flair and incredible pace make him a joy to watch – but it’s his lethal finishing that looks set to make him a legend.
Despite his tender age, Neymar already has a long list of accolades to his name. In his first three seasons with Santos he has won three consecutive league titles and been awarded Player of the Year each campaign. He also beat Wayne Rooney and Leo Messi to the prestigious FIFA Goal of the Year award in 2011 for a skilful run and calm finish against Flamenco – an astonishing strike made all the more astonishing by the fact he scores goals of such quality on a weekly basis.
Neymar is now a superstar in South America but his style remains rooted in the street football he played growing up in Sao Paulo, characterised by sharp touches, mesmerising step-overs and deft flicks. But seven years in Santos’ famous youth academy has added an edge to his game – ever hungry for the ball, the striker as is determined tracking back and helping his team as he is roaring towards goal.
Has he got what it takes to become the best player in the world? Pele thinks he already is – Leo Messi simply “has more experience” according to the three-time World Cup winner. But Neymar isn’t so sure: "I'm always trying to perfect everything - dribbling, shooting, headers and control. You can always improve," he told reporters earlier this year, adding that he studies players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Wayne Rooney to better his talents.
Whether Neymar truly can replicate the historic feats of Pele remains to be seen, but with a move to one of Europe's biggest clubs seemingly on the horizon (according to newspaper reports, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Chelsea are all eager to procure his talents) there's every chance he could go on to surpass every expectation.