Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (born 5 February 1992 in Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo), commonly known simply as Neymar or Neymar Jr., is a Brazilian footballer who plays as a forward for Santos and the Brazilian national football team.
Neymar joined Santos in 2003 and eventually made his first-team debut six years later aged 17 on 7 March 2009 in a 2–1 win against Oeste. He made another appearance the following week against Mogi Mirim, during which he scored his first goal for Santos. On 11 April, in the 2009 Campeonato Paulista semi-final first leg against Palmeiras, Neymar scored the decisive goal in a 2–1 win at Estádio Vila Belmiro. In the final however Santos suffered a 4–2 aggregate defeat to Corinthians.
On 15 April 2010, Neymar scored six goals for Santos in an 8–1 routing of Guarani in the round of 16 of the Brazilian Cup. Following the 2010 Campeonato Paulista in which Neymar scored 14 goals in 19 games, the club were crowned champions after a 5–5 aggregate win over Santo André in the finals. Neymar was subsequently given the award for the best player in the competition.
Neymar’s performances for Santos have drawn comparisons to Brazilian idols such as Robinho and Pelé. In June 2010, Santos rejected a £12 million bid from English Premier League team West Ham United for his services. Neymar has also attracted interest from clubs such as Manchester United, AC Milan, Internazionale, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus, with Real Madrid even going so far as to claim that they had signed a pre contract agreement with Neymar’s agent, Renato Rodrigues, which Santos fervently denied. Following this, Santos placed a €30 million price tag on the player’s head, and tied Neymar down to a new contract lasting until December 2014. Neymar himself said he did not think it was time to leave Santos, and that he was entirely focused on his current club, However, Renato Rodrigues insisted that the Santos striker does not want to stay in his home country of Brazil.
On 30 November 2010, Santos sold 5% interests on future transfer fees received to an investment group, Terceira Estrela Investimentos S.A. (TEISA), for R$ 3,549,900 (€1.5 million). DIS Group (subsidiary of Sonda Group, a Brazil supermarket chain), investment partner of Santos in recent years, bought 40% sporting rights from Neymar’s family in 2009.
Neymar scored six goals during Santos run to the 2011 Copa Libertadores Finals, tying him for third top goalscorer, including the clinching goal of Santos’ 4-3 aggregate win over Cerro Porteño in the semifinals. In the two-legged final, Santos faced Uruguayan side C.A. Peñarol and drew the first leg 0-0 in Montevideo. At home in the second leg, Neymar opened the scoring in the 46th minute as Santos held on for a 2-1 win and Neymar won Man of the Match honours. The win brought Santos their first Copa Libertadores triumph since 1963, when Brazilian legend Pelé was playing for the club.
On 9 November 2011, Neymar and Santos agreed to a contract extension that would see the player stay with the club until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The deal reportedly increased Neymar’s wages by 50%, to the levels that top European clubs would be paying him.
Following Neymar’s performances for Brazil’s U-17 team at the 2009 U-17 World Cup in which he scored a goal in the opening match against Japan former Brazilian football players Pelé and Romário reportedly urged coach Dunga to take Neymar to the 2010 World Cup. Although the widespread opinion that Neymar deserved a place in Dunga’s squad went as far as a 14,000 signature petition, and despite the huge pressure on Dunga to pick Neymar, he was omitted from both the squad of 23, and the stand-by list. Although Dunga described Neymar as “extremely talented”, he claimed that he had not been tested sufficiently on the international level to earn a World Cup spot and he had failed to impress enough while on international duty.
On 26 July 2010, Neymar was selected for the first time in the Brazil senior team by new head coach Mano Menezes for a friendly match against the United States to be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey. On 10 August 2010 he made his debut with the national team in that game, aged 18 years old, starting the match and wearing the number 11 jersey. He scored on his debut after 28 minutes, a header coming from an André Santos cross in a 2–0 win for Brazil.
On 27 March 2011, he scored twice in a 2–0 win against Scotland at the Emirates Stadium. During the match against Scotland, a banana was thrown onto the pitch after he scored from the penalty spot, which led Neymar to complain about ‘constant jeering and an atmosphere of racism’, implying that Scottish fans exhibited racism. While Scottish officials explained, that Neymar has been booed solely for a perceived injury-feigning, a German student who has been in the station amongst Brazil supporters revealed that he threw the banana with no racist intention. This led to the Scottish Football Association asking the Brazilian Football Confederation for an apology for the accusations made to the Scottish fans. Even though Neymars accusation of racism seemed to be rebutted, Neymar refused to apologise or retract his words claiming he ‘did not accuse any person or any group of supporters’.
He took part at the 2011 Copa América in Argentina, where he scored two goals in the first round game against Ecuador.
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