How brilliant is Paris forward Neymar?

Five years to the day since his UEFA Champions League debut, we salute Paris forward Neymar.

©AFP

Five years ago today, Neymar made his first UEFA competition appearance for Barcelona in a 4-0 UEFA Champions League win against Ajax.

What they say

"There are some players who are touched by a magic wand and Neymar is one of them. If he wants to win the Ballon d'Or, he will. If he wants to be the all-time top scorer for Brazil, he will. He enjoys playing and every season he gets better. He's like a fine wine."
Paris full-back Dani Alves

"Neymar could be better than me."
Pelé

Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have struck up a firm friendship in Paris.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have struck up a firm friendship in Paris.©AFP

"He's like a big brother to me. When the star player welcomes you as warmly as he welcomed me, it makes it easier for you to adapt to your new team. When you get to know Neymar, he is completely different from the image that he has on television. He loves laughing and making loads of jokes. He's got real joie de vivre and gets on with everybody."
Kylian Mbappé, Paris forward

"He's one of the best players in the world but he is also an artist, a creative. For creative players it's sometimes easier not to put too much pressure on them."
Thomas Tuchel, Paris coach

"Playing alongside Neymar is very easy because he's a superstar. All you have to do is get the ball to him because he's the type of player who knows how to make a difference."
Philippe Coutinho, 
Brazil attacking midfielder

"His number of goals and assists show he's a beast of a footballer. He's one of the most unpredictable players in the world."
Former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique

Current tally

International: 92 appearances, 59 goals
UEFA club competition: 47 appearances, 27 goals
Domestic competition: 368 appearances, 231 goals

Claims to fame

In action against Barcelona in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup
In action against Barcelona in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup©Getty Images

Santos
Aged 17, Neymar scored on his first senior start, a diving header in a 3-0 win against Mogi Mirim in the 2009 Sao Paulo State Championship.

Took the 2011 Copa Libertadores by storm, leading Santos to their first South American title since 1963 with six goals, the last coming in the second leg of the final against Uruguay's Peñarol.

• Collected the 2011 FIFA Puskas Award, given to the player judged to have scored the best goal of the year, for a dazzling solo strike against Flamengo.

Barcelona
• Around 60,000 supporters turned out at Camp Nou to greet Neymar when he signed for Barça in June 2013. The 21-year-old said at his presentation: "I'm so happy to be able to play with great players like Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. I thank God for all this."

• Truly found his feet in his second campaign with Barcelona, 2014/15. He formed a formidable trident with Lionel Messi and newcomer Luis Suárez that produced 122 goals as the Blaugrana won a treble of Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. They bettered that tally by nine the next season, helping Barcelona retain their Liga and domestic cup titles.

• Starred in Barcelona pulling off the biggest comeback in UEFA Champions League history in 2017, netting twice at the death and supplying the pass for Sergi Roberto to stab the decisive sixth goal in the the Azulgrana's stunning 6-1 round of 16 second-leg victory over Paris.

Paris
• Scored on his Paris debut in a 3-0 win against Guingamp in August 2017 and went on to find the net six times in his first six Ligue 1 outings. Ended his first domestic season in France with 19 goals in 20 top-flight games, including four in an 8-0 triumph against Dijon in January 2018, and was crowned Ligue 1 Player of the Year.

Watch: Check out Neymar's two goals in Paris' 7-1 win against Celtic in the 2017/18 group stages.
Watch: Check out Neymar's two goals in Paris' 7-1 win against Celtic in the 2017/18 group stages.

• Formed a formidable front three with Mbappé and Edinson Cavani as Paris scored 25 times in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stages – an all-time competition record. Neymar chipped in with six of those goals, finding the net in every game bar one.

• His maiden season in the French capital ended prematurely after suffering a fractured metatarsal in a 3-0 Ligue 1 win against Marseille, ruling the Brazilian out of the decisive UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg defeat to Real Madrid. Recovered in time to help Brazil to the quarter-finals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Brazil

• Struck on his senior international debut, a 2-0 success against the United States in August 2010.

• Shone in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup, both in Brazil. He registered the second goal as Spain, whose starting XI included six future Barcelona team-mates, were beaten 3-0 in the final of the former tournament and notched twice against both Croatia and Cameroon in the group stage of the latter.

• His tearful departure from the field during Brazil's quarter-final against Colombia, after sustaining a broken bone in his back, remains one of the enduring images of the 2014 World Cup.

• Converted the decisive penalty against Germany in the final shoot-out in August 2016 to seal hosts Brazil's first-ever gold medal in the men's Olympic football.

• Overhauled Romário (55 goals) and moved into third place in Brazil's all-time goalscoring charts after finding the net in a 2-0 win against Costa Rica at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Ronaldo scored 62 Seleção goals, while Pelé mustered 77.

What you might not know

An emotional Neymar after the 2016 Olympic men's football final
An emotional Neymar after the 2016 Olympic men's football final©Getty Images

• Neymar is one of six Brazilians to have won the Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League, and one of two players to have scored in the final of both continental competitions, Argentina's Hernán Crespo the other.

• He bagged the fastest goal in Olympic football history on 17 August 2016, beating Honduras keeper Luis López after just 14 seconds.

• Never shy and retiring, Neymar has dabbled in acting – he averted a heist and saved Samuel L Jackson's skin by kicking an object at an assailant in the 2017 Hollywood film xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and had a cameo part in an episode of Brazilian soap Amor à Vida.

What he says

"I always said that Neymar-dependence does not exist in the national team – we're talking about Brazil here. Our team, if we are focused, is the best in the world and we know that."

Neymar says Lionel Messi helped him settle at Barcelona
Neymar says Lionel Messi helped him settle at Barcelona©Getty Images

"I don't feel comfortable about comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. They are superstars and always play at the highest levels. I don't know if now is the moment to be the best in the world. I only want to be better than myself and keep outdoing myself."

"Messi helped me a lot. I had a lot of problems at the start with Barca, but the best player in the world came up to me and said: 'Calm down, things will work out, just keep playing your football.' That made me feel a lot better."

What he might achieve yet

• Neymar's aim must be to catapult Paris to their first UEFA Champions League crown. Toppling 156-goal Zlatan Ibrahimović as the French side's all-time top marksman is also a more-than-attainable objective (he is currently on 32 from 35 games).

• Neymar was named third-best player in the world in 2015, behind Messi and Ronaldo, but with both now beyond the age of 30, it cannot be long before he earns the prestigious Ballon d'Or accolade or lifts The Best FIFA Men's Player award.

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