Neymar Sr.: The Puppet Master Behind Every Big Move His Son Makes

Marcus AlvesFeatured Columnist IAugust 13, 2019

Brazilian Barcelona player Neymar (L) speaks to his father, former footballer Neymar Senior, during a five-a-side football match, as part of a Neymar Junior Institute project, in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 9, 2016. / AFP / Miguel SCHINCARIOL        (Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images)
MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/Getty Images

Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro was always known as a cheerful man, full of enthusiasm and a devil-may-care attitude.

Throughout his time as Santos president, he could regularly be found having a laugh and enjoying a chit-chat with reporters covering the club. 

A charismatic figure, he was particularly proud of the relationship he had built up with Neymar and his inner circle.

Initially, LAOR, as he was popularly known after the initials of his name, had nothing but praise for Neymar's father, whom he jokingly claimed should have been awarded the Nobel prize for economics.

"He went from a traffic officer to become one of the most powerful men in world football," Luis Alvaro used to chuckle.

However, when Neymar came to leave Santos for Barcelona, the Brazilian club pocketed just €17.1 million of a deal that was eventually revealed to have cost €86.2 million. The Neymars, on the other hand, earned a reported €40 million. 

Luis Alvaroa's admiration for the family was no more. In August 2016, following a deep depression that prevented him from leaving his own residence, the Santos president died of cancer. 

A few weeks before his death, still struggling to accept what he considered to be a betrayal, he wrote a letter in both Portuguese and Spanish condemning the behavior of Neymar's father during the talks with Barcelona. 

The two-page document, which was released posthumously, showed a heartbroken 73-year-old who was clearly not over the transfer saga.

Luis Alvaro is far from the only enemy Neymar's father has made over the past decade.

The long list also includes the likes of Delcir Sonda, a powerful Brazilian businessman who owned part of Neymar's economic rights, but who now claims he was hoodwinked out of them, leading him to sue Neymar Sr. in a case that rumbles on

It also includes Eduardo Musa, a former right-hand man who received nearly €700,000 in a settlement after filing a lawsuit against the family. 

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 4: Neymar Senior during his son's press conference and jersey presentation after Neymar's signing as new player of Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes on August 4, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Another enemy is Marcos Malaquias, an influential football agent who helped broker Neymar's first deal with Barca but who has since fallen out with his father.

All three still speak favourably about Neymar but do not have a single positive thing to say about his father.


Neymar Sr. once dreamed of being a football star himself. He made it to the lower leagues but was forced to hang up his boots after a car crash in his early 30s.

Instead, he transferred his sporting dreams to his son, acting as a shield for Neymar and making sure he didn't end up like him: broke, with nothing but a small piece of land to his name in Praia Grande, a coastal city an hour outside Sao Paulo. 

"Football wasn't good for me. I wasn't a happy guy—I quit it at 32 without a single penny," he said in a recent interview with SportTV.

When it comes to building up his son's career, Neymar Sr. has been forceful all the way through. Those who know him best insist he hasn't changed. The overprotective father who used to fight fans in the stands for criticising his boy during youth football games now does the same on camera.

He's never been afraid of making enemies and burning bridges to ensure the Paris Saint-Germain superstar remains happy.

He once described himself as "a motherf--ker for them. And the best for me and my clients."

Santos can relate to these words, as can Barcelona, and now PSG are reportedly having a hard time after the Brazilian No. 10 informed sporting director Leonardo earlier this summer of his desire to leave the Parc de Princes and return to the Camp Nou, per Sky Sports News.

Once again, his father has been on the front line of the operation.

Alongside his partner and famous Israeli football agent, Pini Zahavi, he's working behind the scenes to make sure Neymar gets his way.

For most of his career, the 27-year-old has got what he wanted, but he is facing one of his most challenging moments: It's the first time he's not publicly treated as a priority by the world's top clubs.

Amid behavioural issues, fitness problems and UEFA Champions League struggles, he's been left out of FIFA's 10-man shortlist for the best player of the year for the second season in a row. 

Last Sunday, PSG fans unveiled a "Get lost Neymar" banner, despite the Brazilian not being in Thomas Tuchel's squad for their Ligue 1 opener against Nimes, while Leonardo confirmed talks over his exit were "more advanced than before."

PSG fans with their "Get lost Neymar" banner
PSG fans with their "Get lost Neymar" bannerXavier Laine/Getty Images

What's gone wrong for him? Many have pointed the finger of blame at Neymar Sr., accusing him of not letting the forward grow up and take responsibility for his own affairs.

Yet, despite all the criticism that Neymar Sr.'s temper and management style attracts, he maintains the arrangement with his son is a success. 

In a way, as Brazil's largest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, summarised, it's like he's been fulfilling his footballing dreams through his son.

Joao Henrique Marques is a football correspondent for Brazilian outlet UOL in Paris, and he says that Neymar's tight relationship with his father has shown no signs of loosening over the years. 

"Neymar Sr. has been in charge of his career since he was a child. The first time I spoke to him he was 14. I called his father and he passed the phone to him. Back then, Neymar was still underage, so you obviously understand the situation. But the thing is, that is still pretty much how it works these days," Marques tells Bleacher Report.

"Neymar's interview requests are still submitted to his dad. He controls his friends and also gives his opinion about his relationships."

One of the first things Neymar does whenever he walks into the locker room after a game is check his phone for any messages from his father. If Neymar Sr. concludes his son made a mistake on the pitch, he won't hold it to himself; he'll have his say about it.

He plays the role of Neymar's biggest motivator but also his main critic.

"His father has always feared others would take advantage of his son," explains Marques, who has been reporting on the Brazilian ace for over a decade, moving from Sao Paulo to Barcelona and then to Paris.

"He noticed Neymar's talent at a very early age. As a former footballer, he saw that phenomenal potential and suddenly started hearing people talking about his son, 'Your son this, your son that.' He was aware, though, that the football world can be cruel, so he surrounded himself with few people and made several enemies.

"His strategy has been about money, forming a close-knit entourage, with him taking the reins of everything."

GUINGAMP, FRANCE - AUGUST 13: Neymar Senior aka Neymar da Silva Santos Sr attends the French Ligue 1 match between En Avant Guingamp (EAG) and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at Stade de Roudourou on August 13, 2017 in Guingamp, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/G
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Marques adds that the best word to define Neymar Sr. is "greedy" and notes how he often brings up Neymar's charitable work as an attempt to deflect such criticisms.

However, Marques is also impressed with Neymar Sr.'s business chops. 

"Despite his reputation, anyone who speaks to him about sports management is left stupefied with how much knowledge he has gained," Marques says. 

"He's surrounded himself with the best professionals, listened to them, watched them and now has the ability to control a brand like Neymar's ... [but] his main issue is his attitude."

Spending most of his time in Brazil, Neymar Sr. has referred to his son more than once as a "client," which has raised plenty of eyebrows. 

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 04:  Neymar Santos Senior the father of Neymar arrives for a press conference with Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi on August 4, 2017 in Paris, France.  Neymar signed a 5 year contract for 222 Million Euro.  (Photo b
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

"You may say, 'Damn, I'm treating my son like a business.' Well, of course. Up to a certain point, Neymar is my son, but from the moment he leaves home, he becomes my business," he said in an interview with Gazeta Press in 2011 (h/t ESPN.com).

Folha de S. Paulo revealed that 85 percent of Neymar's advertising profit goes to NR Sports company, which is headed by his father and his mother, Nadine Goncalves. A walking billboard who catches people's eyes and hearts, he earned a fortune from sponsors last season, with Folha de S. Paulo estimating the amount to be R$100 million (€22.4 million). 

"I demand from everyone, including my son!" Neymar Sr. once stated.

He's very strict with the way things are handled within the firm, but he has also shown a sense of humour on occasions. 

In a memo sent to his team in 2014, he jokingly banned the use of emojis in internal emails. "Stop sending the little faces and stuff like that in your messages. Firstly, I can't distinguish them. Secondly, I don't understand them. If you want to keep sending them, make them giant-sized and with subtitles," he wrote.

In the four-storey building in Santos where he discusses his son's future, he's Neymar. The PSG player, on the other hand, is Neymar Jr.—or "Juninho" to those closest to him. 

TOPSHOT - Brazilian football star Neymar (R) listens to his father Neymar Santos Sr during a five-a-side football tournament for his charity Neymar Junior Project Institute, in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 13, 2019. (Photo by Miguel SCHINCARIO
MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/Getty Images

At the beginning, the duo tried to convince fans and reporters to adopt the names, but it didn't work out. It hasn't stopped them, however, from pushing forward and making the same request to the Brazilian FA.

It's the sort of move that has raised questions on whether the €222 million man is a supporting actor in his own career.

"Neymar Sr. is said to have been a shy and introverted figure in his playing days. But he's now become a multimillionaire and powerful businessman, considered a born negotiatorsomeone who is even allowed into Brazil's dressing room with carte blanche from officials," Diego Garcia, a prestigious reporter from Folha de S. Paulo, tells B/R.

"Neymar still lets his father protect him as if he were a child because he loves and idolises him. Above all, he trusts him blindly.

"I ask myself if the leading role Neymar Sr. has in his son's career is not actually a way of getting himself into the spotlight instead of really shielding Neymar Jr."

Neymar Sr. certainly has had no issues about putting himself in the public eye when the opportunity has arrived. 

At the 2016 carnival, one of Rio de Janeiro's greatest samba schools paid tribute to Santos and invited Neymar and Pele to their parade. When neither of them could attend, the school decided to replace Pele with a body double and was prepared to do the same with Neymar, but then his father came out to say he would take his son's place.

Such anecdotes have led some critics to suggest that Neymar should follow the path of his friend Lewis Hamilton, a Formula 1 driver, and sack his father as his agent, but Neymar Sr. insist there is no issue to debate.

"He's grown up to know what's best for him—whether it's continuing to listen to my advice or not. He's not tied to a system of oppression," he said in an interview with SportTV in July.

However, in a summer when Neymar has again been itching for a move, there is no indication that the PSG striker is looking to mark himself apart from his father.  

As long as his biggest mentor and adviser gets him the move he is looking for, then he will remain comfortable with Neymar Sr. replacing him in carnival parades, signing autographs and posing for selfies. 

                   

Follow Marcus on Twitter: @_marcus_alves

Related

    How 'The U' Is Making a Comeback

    Six top players from the transfer portal are helping new HC Manny Diaz bring back the swagged-out Canes

    Featured logo
    Featured

    How 'The U' Is Making a Comeback

    Six top players from the transfer portal are helping new HC Manny Diaz bring back the swagged-out Canes

    Michael Weinreb
    via Bleacher Report

    Stock Watch: Who's Trending Up, Down? ⬆️⬇️

    Fantasy takeaways from latest headlines

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Stock Watch: Who's Trending Up, Down? ⬆️⬇️

    Fantasy takeaways from latest headlines

    Chris Roling
    via Bleacher Report

    Dog-Day Trade Ideas for NBA Stars

    Finding new teams for Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Lowry

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Dog-Day Trade Ideas for NBA Stars

    Finding new teams for Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Lowry

    Preston Ellis
    via Bleacher Report

    Is Howard Really the Lakers' Best Option at Center?

    Featured logo
    Featured

    Is Howard Really the Lakers' Best Option at Center?

    Eric Pincus
    via Bleacher Report