Evolution of a Transfer: Neymar to Barcelona
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The 21-year-old has made headlines, attracted numerous sponsors and seen Europe’s biggest clubs come calling for his signature ever since he burst onto the scene with Santos in 2009.
The on-again, off-again deal rumours evolved into a saga over the last couple of seasons, as the world tried to predict whether Neymar would leave his native Brazil before the 2014 World Cup.
The speculation threatened to rumble on throughout the summer months until it was announced that the striker had signed for the La Liga champions this week on fcbarcelona.com.
But when did Barcelona begin their pursuit of Neymar? Is it true that Barcelona secured his services two years ago? Why did he choose the Camp Nou side?
Here, we look back at the evolution of Neymar’s move to Barcelona and chart his rise to success.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts and whether you think Neymar will be a hit with Barca in the comments section below!
13-Year-Old Neymar on Trial at Real Madrid
Neymar has been attracting interest from Europe for a long time.
Aged just 13, the young striker had a trial with Real Madrid.
Neymar’s father told ESPN Brazil (via Goal.com):
We were invited to come over and look at the facilities.
We had a car available to travel to the training sessions. Neymar met all of the players, took part in the training sessions; the doors were completely open.
However, as reported in the Goal.com article, it was only contractual issues that blocked Neymar's potential move to the Bernabeu.
Madrid’s loss would prove to be Barca’s gain in years to come.
Debut for Santos
Neymar's first senior goal for Santos.
In 2009 Neymar made his debut for Santos in the Brasileirao.
A week later, he scored his first senior goal in his first start for the side, against Mogi Mirim.
Neymar went on to score 13 goals in his first senior season with the Sao Paolo club, according to ESPN.
This writer got to see Neymar in action for the Peixe, six months after making his first appearance for the side.
The young striker, who was 17 at the time, came on as a substitute at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, in a Brasileirao match against Atletico Mineiro.
It was another striker, Diego Tardelli, who stole the show that night with two goals in Atletico’s 3-1 win.
But Neymar’s introduction to the game in the 63rd minute created a palpable stir. Touted as being Brazil’s next big thing, the youngster’s confidence and mazy dribbles showed signs of lots to come.
Santos Silverware and Interest from England
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Neymar scored 17 goals in 31 Campeonato Brasileirao games for Santos in 2010 (Transfermarkt).
His goals undoubtedly helping the side to being named eventual winners of the Sao Paulo State Championship (Santosfc.com).
Neymar was also named the best player in the competition that year (in Portuguese – Folha de Sao Paulo).
Onwards and Upwards at Santos
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Neymar signed a new five-year contract with Santos in 2010, resisting rumoured big-money offers from Chelsea.
In Metro, he was quoted as saying:
Money alone does not bring happiness. I’m happy here and I want to continue being so.
It was a complicated decision, very difficult. But God gave us the wisdom and power to make the best decision.
Now it’s time to only think about Santos and winning more titles.
Neymar’s decision to stay at the Vila Belmiro with Santos proved successful for the club, who won the Copa Libertadores in 2011.
The Copa Libertadores is the Latin American version of the Champions League and Santos had not won the title since 1963 (FIFA.com).
Winning the trophy made Santos eligible to play in the Club World Cup where they were pitted against European champions Barcelona in the final. Which is where the Catalan club first met Neymar…
Club World Cup: Santos vs Barcelona
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In 2011, Neymar’s name was included in FIFA’s 23-man shortlist for the Ballon D’or, according to Sambafoot.
Who else had their name on that list? A certain Lionel Messi.
This saw the 2011 Club World Cup between Santos and Barcelona quickly dubbed as the battle between Messi and Neymar (the Independent).
It was to be the first time Messi and Neymar shared a pitch in club football, with Barcelona crowned as champions in a 4-0 win in Yokohama.
It was alleged that Neymar said to coach Pep Guardiola, "Take me to Barcelona," after the final, as reported on Marca.com.
Many viewed this meeting as the start of negotiations between Barcelona and Santos.
It has been suggested that the La Liga side made a €10 million down payment in 2011 to secure Neymar’s services in 2014.
Well-known Spanish football writer Guillem Balague had this to say on the matter.
More recently The Guardian's Sid Lowe said:
This was a deal that seemed destined to end with the player joining Barcelona. The first glimpse of what had been prepared came in January 2011 when Barcelona's accounts included a mysterious €10m payment, "in accordance with [future] agreements worth €40m". That was an agreement that bound the two parties together, stipulating a penalty clause should either side break the deal.
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Despite a contract keeping him at Santos until 2015 and a buyout clause of €45 million (Daily Mail), the interest from European clubs showed no sign of waning.
According to usatoday.com Barcelona were still tracking the youngster, along with four other clubs in Europe.
Neymar’s performances for silver medal-winning Brazil in the 2012 summer Olympics continued to raise his profile to a wider audience.
He won the 2012 South American Footballer of the Year (ESPN.com), was a finalist in the Ferenc Puskas Award for best goal, as reported on FIFA.com and scored 14 domestic goals for Santos in the Brasileirao, according to Transfermarkt.
2013 – Barcelona Beckons
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2013 was the year that Barcelona got their man, after years of making advances for the striker.
But Neymar chose to join Barcelona instead, breaking the news on his Instagram account last weekend. He said:
On Monday, I will sign a contract with Barcelona. I want to thank the fans of Santos for these incredible nine years. My feeling for the club and the fans will never change. It is eternal!
Only a club like Santos FC could give me everything I have lived on and off the field. I thank the wonderful fans who supported me even in the most difficult moments. Titles, goals, dribbling, celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart
It is a different time for me, a sad (farewell) and cheerful (new challenge). May God bless me in my choices ... And I'm always in Santos!
Barcelona confirmed that Neymar had signed a five-year deal on Monday on fcbarcelona.com.
But why did he choose to go to the Camp Nou? In an article on ESPN.co.uk, current Barca coach Tito Vilanova claims that Neymar’s choice was based on a "Sporting project and not a financial one."
Whether Neymar can cut it in Europe remains to be seen but the idea of seeing him in action alongside the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi is a mouthwatering prospect for the 2013/14 season.
Neymar puts it perfectly himself, via fcbarcelona.com:
"Just thinking about it gives me that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling."