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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

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Why we love Neymar?

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The British woke up to his prodigious talents when he bent the ball round hapless defender Gary Caldwell to score an improbable goal at London’s Emirates Stadium last year, in a Brazil vs. Scotland game. Major European clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid have been chasing Neymar since he was even younger.

As for Brazil, this soccer-obsessed nation has been watching 20-year old Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior for years now. The outrageously talented forward is the star not just of Brazil, but of Santos, a club whose other most famous player was called Pelé (note for Americans: Pelé is often called the greatest soccer player of all time).

Neymar earns an absolute fortune, wears diamond earrings, and has recently flattened his trademark Mohican into a ‘do’ that makes him look like the singer from a late-1980s German heavy metal group. He’s already a father. He likes to have fun. He isn’t just a brilliant footballer, he’s a star – a celebrity whose presence is frequently accompanied by screaming girls and paparazzi. Neymar is money, in every sense of the word.

I interviewed Neymar twice last year. Once, just after training, he was polite and efficient. The second time, during a photo shoot, he was a little cockier. He knows how good he is: he could hardly not, given the accolades delirium with which joyous fans greet every goal. Many in Brazil say he is too arrogant, too successful. How dare a lad from a poor family like this get rich so quickly and not be humble? I didn’t find that. I found a polite, if curt young man with the supreme self-confidence of one who has never failed.