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Neymar – Brazil’s Golden Boy

Mogi das Cruzes is a small municipality in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. With just over 387,000 inhabitants at the last count, it’s a town as populated as Teesside in an area seven times the size; Mogi a grand 725km2 to the conurbation’s 108km2. The town’s not famous for much aside from having its roots in the Brazilian gold rush.

Many centuries later, being just as infatuated with football as the South American stereotype suggests, the town threatened to export players to the major leagues of the world. Despite its proximity to Brazil’s largest city and the benefits this undoubtedly offers, these players failed to make their mark on the top tiers of England, Italy and Spain instead plying their trade in Australia, Qatar and Ukraine. Mogi’s sporting world seemingly less encrusted with the gold nuggets with which the town was once associated.

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Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, however, was born on Wednesday 5th February 1992 to Nadine Santos and Neymar da Silva Sr., one of the breed of also-ran footballers. Whilst early life was seemingly good for the new-born, it wasn’t without its challenges. Speaking in their joint-autobiography published in June 2014, ‘Neymar: Conversations between Father and Son’, Neymar Sr. relived the moment he thought his child had died at four months old as the family’s vehicle was hit by an on-coming car as they went to visit close relatives.

Despite being found bloodied beneath a seat and with a large shard of glass protruding from his forehead, Neymar recovered well. The cliché goes that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and whilst there must be a semblance of truth in such a quip, it does undermine the trauma of such horrific events. In any case, the da Silvas all walked away from the crash, broken as individuals (Senior dislocated his hip bone) but tighter as a family unit. These values later informing Junior’s attitude, a father to a son, Davi Lucca, at the tender age of 19, shielding both mother and off-spring from intense media scrutiny.

Neymar’s own father would become his mentor throughout his childhood, as he began to flourish into a talented footballer after honing his skills on his housing estate and in indoor futsal games. At seven years old he played as a youth with local side Portuguesa Sanista. Neymar would stay at the club for four years before being nurtured by top division side Santos as a pre-teen. Despite being found bloodied beneath a seat and with a large shard of glass protruding from his forehead, Neymar recovered well. The cliché goes that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and whilst there must be a semblance of truth in such a quip, it does undermine the trauma of such horrific events. In any case, the da Silvas all walked away from the crash, broken as individuals (Senior dislocated his hip bone) but tighter as a family unit. These values later informing Junior’s attitude, a father to a son, Davi Lucca, at the tender age of 19, shielding both mother and off-spring from intense media scrutiny.

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Neymar’s own father would become his mentor throughout his childhood, as he began to flourish into a talented footballer after honing his skills on his housing estate and in indoor futsal games. At seven years old he played as a youth with local side Portuguesa Sanista. Neymar would stay at the club for four years before being nurtured by top division side Santos as a pre-teen.

It took Santos all of ten years to craft an inexperienced master of flair into an all-round attacking threat. After a move to European champions Real Madrid broke down in 2006 (aged just 14), Neymar kept his head down and made his Santos debut three years later. The versatile play-maker netting 54 times in 103 games for the club. These goals helped the Peixe secure three top-flight titles, one domestic knockout trophy and two continental trophies whilst the youngster also made his international debut at 18, later winning an Olympic silver medal (2012) and a Confederations Cup (2013) as well as a South American Youth Championships (2011). A 2014 World Cup fourth-place finish was considered disappointing for the host nation and a 7-1 semi-final drubbing at the hands of Germany proved how far the five-time holders needed to improve as a team.

Now at Spanish giants Barcelona, with whom he has played for a season and a half, this small town boy has sustained his potent goal-scoring record, having bagged 16 in 32 matches. He is his country’s captain, their sixth highest ever goal-scorer and twice the South American Footballer of the Year (2011 and 2012).

The Brazilian superstar’s current contract has him tied to Barcelona through 2021. He has also secured his place into the next decade with his long-term commercial endorsements. The 25-year old is the only soccer player to earn more off than on the pitch, including from global sponsors Nike, Gillette, Panasonic and Beats by Dre.

Who said Mogi das Cruze no longer produced gold?

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