Neymar has been terrific in 2012, continuing to defy expectation and wow his spectators. His success so far is virtually unprecedented; even Lionel Messi didn't record 52 goals in 58 games at the age of 20.
For Santos, he's scored 43 goals in 47 games, surpassing his goal total in 2010 despite playing 13 less games. For Brazil, Neymar has shown similar improvement; he's scored nine goals in 11 games, an improvement on the seven in 13 games he recorded in 2011.
More important than Neymar's goal tally, the Brazilian superstar has kept the silverware coming in, picking up the Campeonato Paulista for the third straight season and the Recopa Sudamerica.
Internationally, Neymar scored the winning penalty in the Superclasico de las Americas and was a key member of the Olympics team that brought home second place this summer.
Yet, despite all the success experienced by Neymar in 2012, there are many reasons to believe that more is in store for Neymar in 2013.
For one, there are the basic facts: Neymar will be one year older in 2013, which means, barring any major injuries or other unexpected distraction from football, Neymar should be one year wiser and closer to fulfilling his immense potential.
While both Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were know largely for their tricks at the start of their careers, they curbed their use of such tricks as their careers continued for the sake of efficiency.
The same changes have been taking place for Neymar, and as he continues to make himself a more efficient footballer, and find that balance that both Ronaldo and Ronaldinho found, I can only see him getting better and stronger.
Secondly, 2013 could offer opportunities Neymar the opportunity to play with players domestically that will make him better.
Even if Neymar does not move to Europe this January or next summer, which looks to be the case according an interview with TV Bandeirantes (h/t Mirror Football), there is a high chance that at least one of his compatriots will join him at Santos.
Robinho has reportedly asked to leave AC Milan, according to the AC Milan official website (h/t Goal.com India). Speaking after AC Milan's recent 4-2 loss to Roma, vice president Adriano Galliani said:
My trip to Brazil has been planned for months. It will be all work and no vacation, as there are two negotiations in progress. Pato and Robinho asked to leave Milan. I already know what could happen in case they do go.
From the outset, there have only ever been two clubs interested in Robinho: Flamengo and Santos. However, after having a six million bid rejected, Flamengo announced their intentions to drop the pursuit (h/t Sambafoot) of Robinho, paving the way for Santos to bring their former player back home.
Last time Robinho was at Santos with Neymar, the team was easily the best in Brazil. It won the Copa Brasil for the first time in its history, as well as the Campeonato Paulista.
Robinho also experienced the most productive spell of his Brazilian international career that year, scoring six goals in eight games.
If both Robinho and Neymar are allowed to develop chemistry in the Campeonato Brasiliero, I can see Santos winning that competition again as well.
Finally, the Confederations Cup in the summer of 2013 will offer Neymar the opportunity to really make his name on the international stage.
Copa America in 2011 didn't pan out the way Neymar would've liked; Brazil were in disarray throughout the tournament, and he himself had some maturing to do at the age of only 19.
But this summer, Neymar will be 21, and poised to become one of the leaders of Brazil's drive to success. Neymar himself has already spoken of his excitement ahead of the tournament, saying (h/t Mirror Football):
I would be lying if I said I am not thinking about the Confederations Cup.
I had two opportunities to play competitions for the national team, one in the Olympics and another in the Copa America, and I feel I am even more prepared now.
I am very eager and I hope I will do a good job so we can win the title.
In all likeliness, 2013 won't be a career-defining year for Neymar, unless Santos embark on some record-breaking season where they win Serie A, the Campeonato Paulista and Copa Brasil.
For the most part, Neymar's big decisions and big career moments will take place in 2014; that'll be the year Neymar participates in his first ever World Cup on home soil. It'll also be the year Neymar most likely leaves Santos and decides where his first stop in Europe will be.
You can expect that summer to be a summer of transfer market pandemonium.
But even if 2013 won't be a huge year for the Brazilian, there are some decent-sized steps he can take to further improving himself as a player and enhancing his reputation as a future world great.
Neymar and his close family and friends have thus far managed his career well, and if they continue to do so, the Brazilian prodigy should only keep getting better and better.
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