Ranking Neymar and the Top 10 Young Brazilian Talents in the World Right Now
Brazil may have fallen at the final hurdle in their quest for their first Olympic football gold medal earlier this summer, but the squad in London was the ideal showcase for the bulging crop of fine young players the country has produced.
Even for a nation that has won the World Cup a record five times, this current generation of emerging stars is one of the most prodigious in their history.
Headed by Neymar, these 10 players—all of whom are 23 or under, as per the mark for underage footballers at the Olympics—are each likely to play a significant part in Brazil's bid to win the World Cup on home soil two years from now.
10. Alexandre Pato
It seems like only yesterday that Pato made his AC Milan debut in January 2008, scoring in a thrilling 5-2 win over Napoli in which fellow Brazilians Ronaldo and Kaka also scored, and he went on to score nine goals in 18 Serie A games that term.
After an intervening four years plagued by injury, the former Internacional striker was thought by many to be washed up at the age of 22.
However, after seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave for Paris Saint-Germain (having turned down the chance to move there himself in January) Pato is still young enough to fulfill his star potential, if he can stay healthy.
9. Philippe Coutinho
After finding first-team opportunities hard to come by at Inter, the former Vasco de Gama midfielder spent the second half of last season at Espanyol, where he scored five goals in 16 league appearances.
With former youth boss Andrea Stramaccioni now at the helm, Coutinho should find first-team football easier to come by.
8. Alex Sandro
While Porto's versatile right-back Danilo just failed to make this list, his teammate for club and country flies the flag for both of them here.
The attacking left-back moved to the Estadio do Dragao for around £7.5 million last summer and, while he has struggled for game time behind Uruguayan Alvaro Pereira, the 21-year-old's time will surely come, as will Danilo's.
The 23-year-old midfielder is already a familiar face to most fans as he has been at Tottenham for 18 months now, but his star is set to rise even further in the near future.
With Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone about to leave and new boss Andre Villas-Boas's preferred style of play much more suited to his game, Sandro could finally thrive in his regular starting spot.
As such, he could be the next star midfielder Spurs fight to keep hold of.
After playing a big part in Brazil's World Cup campaign, Oscar was given time off by Chelsea for the Community Shield, and he eventually made his debut for the club off the bench against Wigan at the weekend.
With a storming run and shot (missing wide), along with a nonchalant yet exquisite back-heel pass to a teammate, the £25 million acquisition showed that he will be a fine addition to the Blues' growing collection of fine young attacking players.
5. Paulo Henrique Ganso
Another one of the tall, rangy attacking midfielders that seem to a particularly bountiful crop in Brazilian football right now, the 22-year-old matured so quickly that he was named as a stand-by for Mano Menezes' 2010 World Cup squad.
Ganso was extremely productive in the most recent campaign of the Campeonato Paulista, scoring three goals and setting up six as Santos retained their title. If Neymar is to be Brazil's main man, then Ganso is the guy behind the guy.
4. Lucas Moura
For a long time this summer, Manchester United fans were being teased with the prospect of signing the much-vaunted Sao Paulo attacking midfielder, only for him to end up at Paris Saint-Germain.
The nouveau-riche French club outbid United to secure the player's services midway through the Olympics, and the Daily Mail quotes manager Carlo Ancelotti hitting back at Alex Ferguson's complaints about PSG's recent spending with the pithy retort: "United offered one amount and PSG offered slightly more. It’s called the law of the market."
3. Juan Jesus
Every other young player that bursts onto the scene these days seems to be dubbed the new someone or other—comparisons usually drawn by the players' agents and repeated by eager journalists—but there is more than a ring of truth about the link between Juan Jesus and Lucio.
The Inter Milan centre-back is only 20 but is seen as Brazil's brightest young defensive prospect, and spending the Olympics playing alongside Thiago Silva will do his development no harm at all.
2. Leandro Damiao
The Internacional striker has been in demand from European clubs for a while, and after he finished the Olympic tournament as top scorer the demand has only increased.
Neymar may have all the skill and tricks, but Damiao is the one with a far more clinical eye for goal.
That is why Tottenham are on the verge of signing him, according to the Daily Mail.
The Santos striker is the new poster boy for Brazilian football around the world, a status which is remarkable considering he is still only 20 years old and has never played club football in Europe.
If rumours are to be believed, the absurdly skilful forward with the Flock of Seagulls hairdo is joining Barcelona in 2014 but not before he has carried the hopes of the most football-mad nation on his shoulders at his home World Cup.