World Cup 2014: How Badly Does Brazil Want Neymar to Stay Home at Club Level?

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterSeptember 26, 2012

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 18:  Neymar (R) of Santos challenged by Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona during the FIFA Club World Cup Final match between Santosl and Barcelona at the Yokohama International Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Yokohama, Japan.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Roughly 21 months ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Neymar remains a Santos player and a highly visible hero in his homeland.

Count that as a victory for Brazil, both as a national football team and, considering the country's love affair with the game, the nation itself.

But how long will Neymar stick around? And how important is it to Brazil—again, both the team and the country—that he does?

To answer those questions, let's back up almost a year.

In November 2011, Neymar, then 19, signed a new contract with Santos that paid him a salary comparable to that of a star in a major European League.

According to The Independent, Neymar brings in about £550,000 of net pay per month with the new deal. That works out to about £6.6 million per year.

The salary itself matters in that it gives Neymar a legitimate reason to stay in his homeland through the 2014 World Cup. What might be more important, though, was the manner in which Santos raised the money for the contract.

According to that Independent story, paying Neymar became a "national issue."

Neymar has already become an icon of the famed Brazilian beautiful game and, it is hoped, a symbol of its return.

With a popularity that transcends club loyalties, based largely on the hope he can inspire Brazil's return to the jogo bonito after the unpopular Dunga years, keeping Neymar at home became a national issue.

The Santos president, Luis Alvaro Ribeiro, even called on the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, to help. The Spanish bank Santander, a major player in Brazil, took out double-page newspaper adverts proclaiming itself proud to have contributed to keeping the player at home. It is one of seven companies tied into an imaginative contract with Neymar and Santos, the club realising it needed help topping up the £90,000-a-month salary it could pay.

The new contract was designed to keep Neymar at home with his boyhood club through the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil. If that wasn't a strong enough indicator of the importance Neymar commands in Brazil, Santos president Luis Alvaro's comments last month might have been just that.

Sao Paulo, another famous Brazilian club, had just agreed to sell another rising Brazilian star, Lucas Moura, to Paris Saint-Germain for €45 million.

With the sale (Lucas will join PSG in January) still fresh, Alvaro insisted that Neymar was even more valuable than the reported £57 million (about €72 million) buyout clause in his contract.

"I am adamant in saying that Neymar is priceless," Alvaro told Lance (via ESPN FC). "Millions and millions of euro, dollars and reais could not pay for him. He is a unique player, he's distinguished, he is the great idol of Brazilian football, for whom it is impossible to negotiate for."

That hasn't stopped the speculation. Last year, widespread reports indicated Neymar had signed for Real Madrid in a £53 million deal. The reports turned out to be false.

On Wednesday, published a report in which Barcelona defender Dani Alves—a fellow Brazilian—said he is "looking forward to seeing Neymar and Lionel Messi play together."

That would indeed be a sight most of the world would love to see. For now, Neymar remains in Brazil, but for how long?