Joaquim Piera of Spanish publication Sport suggests Chelsea were "very close" to signing Neymar in 2010 after owner Roman Abramovich launched a €30 million bid for the Brazilian star.
Comments from former Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira sparked the report, in which Abramovich is said to have planned a meeting with Neymar's representatives prior to the player signing a new contract.
Piera highlighted comments from the South American club's former chief, commonly known as Laor, who indicated the Blues came close to landing one of football's most recognised stars:
I knew that Chelsea's offer was going to include school for Neymar's sister, work for the family, card and a load of benefits. We knew that Chelsea were going to pick him up at the airport after a game in the south of Brazil, so we sent a car to take Neymar to the home of one of our directors. There he signed the new contract.
As it turns out, Neymar would sign for Spanish giants Barcelona in 2013, a transfer which has developed into one of football's most controversial.
Former Blaugrana president Sandro Rosell left the club over allegations he hid the true cost of Neymar's arrival. The forward's switch was originally said to cost €57 million—€45 million of which was allegedly given to the player's parents—but Spanish investigators suggest this is false.
EFE (via AS) indicates €94.8 million is the accurate sum, while BBC News reports prosecutors believe Barca have failed to pay €12 million in taxes alongside the omission. Although Barca continue to deny any wrongdoing, Rosell and current president Josep Maria Bartomeu have been charged in relation to the case, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC.
Controversy aside, Barca landed themselves a world-class forward who has the ability to rank among the all-time greats. Neymar worked diligently to fit in with the Catalan club's style during his first season—learning to release the ball quicker and bring team-mates into play with accurate passes—a factor contributing to his terrific run of goals this term.
The 23-year-old has scored 17 La Liga goals this campaign, per WhoScored.com. Only team-mate Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo currently outperform him in this area, two players who finished second and first in this year's Ballon d'Or vote respectively.
A selection of Neymar's quality moments from Santos can be seen below:
It would have been interesting to have seen Neymar's game develop in England. While Jose Mourinho wasn't in charge at the time, he is the type of manager who demands his players to work tirelessly, be multi-functional and contribute across the entire pitch. As we've seen with the development of Eden Hazard, the Portuguese boss doesn't let his stars shy away from defensive work, even if they're prolific at the other end.
Although Barcelona or Madrid always appeared the more obvious fit, Neymar is someone who can improve any team in the world. Laor's comments indicate Chelsea nearly snagged themselves a major bargain, but a few years down the line, the Stamford Bridge club will be happy with their current squad.
Chelsea are five points clear at the top of the Premier League and remain in the Champions League. Sunday sees their jaunt into the Capital One Cup final, suggesting silverware is likely. While many will dream of Neymar wearing the famous blue, things haven't progressed badly for the west London side.