Neymar's 2013 in Review: Best and Worst Moments, Best Goals and More

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJanuary 2, 2014

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It's been quite the 12 months for Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.

You could hardly describe it as a breakout year for the youngster; more the enhancement of a burgeoning reputation and a desire to prove any doubters wrong.

Rumours began in 2012 that the player wanted to come to Europe and sign for Barcelona. Perhaps the most unpalatable part of Neymar's year was the ridiculous soap opera that his transfer eventually became, dominating as it did the early part of 2013. 

A precocious talent and wanted man from an early age, he began the year at his beloved Santos.

A team whom he left with an impressive goals to games ratio of 138 in 229, a team where he was clearly the main man and judging by the tears during his final appearance, a team that is close to his heart. 

Yet Neymar didn't start the year too impressively, especially at the national level, it has to be said. A disappointing showing for Brazil against England at Wembley in February was surely indicative of the player's mind being elsewhere.

As the transfer saga appeared to be heading for closure during the spring, so we saw an improvement in the player's form and attitude.

An inspired individual performance against Uniao Barbarense saw Neymar bag all four goals in a 4–0 success in April and just a month later, Player-of-the-Tournament Neymar led Santos into the Paulistao final, losing narrowly to Corinthians over the two legs. 

His final game for Santos came on 26 May 2013 in a drab goalless draw against Flamengo.

The time had come, Neymar was off to Barcelona—and what a sight greeted him upon his arrival.

Almost 60,000 fans turned up at Camp Nou to witness the first glimpse of the player in Blaugrana, and they provided the sort of atmosphere normally reserved for pop stars.

At this point in the year Forbes released their list of wealthiest athletes and ranked him at number 68. At age 21, he had amassed $20.5 million from salary and endorsements. Not bad!

Later in the year, he would be talked about as the most marketable footballer in the world, ahead of both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

His name and number printed on Barca replica shirts was immediately the top earner in the club megastore, outselling even Lionel Messi.

Yet that first taste of his new life was just a whirlwind of interviews, promotion, photo opportunities and of course the signing of the contract. There was more important business to attend to.

The Confederations Cup in his home country took immediate precedence and Neymar certainly hit the ground running with the first goal of the tournament against Japan. The strike was so clean, and beautiful, that it deservedly ended up as a finalist in the Puskas award—given for the best goal of the year.

An ultimately successful tournament including a match-winning performance against some of his future team-mates in the final only added to the player's allure.

However, many pundits were still to be won over.

Could he cut it in Europe in a league of much higher quality? Would he rid himself of a ghastly propensity for simulation—something that reared its ugly head in the worst possible way against Uruguay.

A charity game at the end of the tournament was a baffling, and not very professional, decision. Surely a rest was in order before the demands and rigours of La Liga took hold?

It appeared that a "Neymar and Friends vs. Messi and Friends" game held more importance. Luckily for all, the €57 million man didn't get injured and scored a quite ridiculous effort during proceedings.

As part of the deal to bring the Brazilian to Catalonia, Santos arrived in Barcelona at the beginning of August to contest the Joan Gamper Trophy, traditionally the curtain raiser to Barca's season each year. They might as well not have bothered.

Four goals in each half from the Blaugrana in an 8-0 triumph showed Neymar at first hand the gulf in class of his past and present employers.

By the end of the month, Tata Martino's first trophy as Barca manager was secured. The Spanish Supercup vs. Atletico Madrid was ultimately decided by a header in the first leg from the new darling of the Camp Nou terraces. It was certainly the best way to endear yourself to a demanding and adoring public.

Since then, Neymar has continued to seduce with his mixture of hard work, unselfish play and a creditable nine goals and 10 assists in his 19 appearances in all competitions—per

His emerging partnership with Messi has been a revelation, and in the Argentine's absence Neymar has taken on board the extra responsibility with aplomb.

A debut El Clasico goal would be a particular early highlight, however, a number of unnecessary bookings and the occasional dive—think Scott Brown's sending off for Celtic—still taint the odd performance.

His star continues to rise, however, and so the endorsements continue to flood in.

Pete Jensen of the Daily Mail noted how an advert for a phone company in Brazil was recently banned because it set a bad example. The Claro advert depicted Ronaldo calling Neymar at all hours of the night and waking him.

In a strange case of life mirroring art, Neymar had to plead on Instagram for his fans to stop doing just that:

I am unable to keep the same number for more than two weeks because people who call themselves fans—Neymarzetes—call me in the early hours of the morning or send me messages. 

And the worst part is that they discover the numbers of my family, girlfriend and friends and they invent stories and tell lies so that in the end they also have to change their numbers.

Instagram seems to feature heavily in the life of this social media savvy young man. Whether it's a new tattoo, a trip with the Brazil national team, or putting up the Christmas decorations, Neymar's life is played out in front of the camera.

Which you would imagine is just the way football's newest superstar likes it.


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