How brilliant is Paris's Neymar?

Neymar is rated as better than Lionel Messi by fellow Brazilian great Pelé; celebrates his achievements so far.

©Getty Images

He is injured as he celebrates turning 27 today, but could yet be the greatest footballer in the world: polishes our shrine to Neymar.

What they say

"He can be whatever he wants to be – everything is open for him. He's quick, skilful and excels one-on-one. He has everything."
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward

"I like Neymar a lot. He is a bit like me. Can he be Messi's heir? Yes, he has everything he needs to become as strong as him."
Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus forward

Five great Neymar goals
Five great Neymar goals

"People see him doing tricks and dribbles and think he is only trying to enjoy himself, that he's selfish and only thinks about himself. But when you share a dressing room with him you realise that it's not the case. He's a very kind person, he is interested in others."
Kylian Mbappé, Paris forward

"When I am asked about Messi and Cristiano, I say that Neymar is the best for me. It is not just for his goals, but for the ease with which he plays and the confidence he has."
Roberto Carlos, former Brazil and Real Madrid defender

"If Neymar decided he wanted to come back? [I'd do] a double somersault with corkscrew!"
Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona coach

Current tally

International: 96 appearances, 60 goals
UEFA club competition: 53 appearances, 32 goals
European domestic competition: 186 appearances, 121 goals

Claims to fame

Neymar looking moody at Santos
Neymar looking moody at Santos©Getty Images

• Neymar visited Real Madrid as a teenaged Santos trainee, long before he joined their arch-rivals Barcelona. Following a subsequent first-team breakthrough at 17, West Ham and Chelsea made unsuccessful attempts to bring the prodigy to Europe.

• Scored in the two-legged final as Santos lifted the 2011 Copa Libertadores – the first time they had won the South American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League since Pelé spearheaded their 1963 triumph.

• In 2012 Santos great Pelé said Neymar – then 20 – was a better player than Messi: "There's always this Maradona comparison, saying he's better than Pelé. Now some are saying Messi is better than Pelé. Well, he has to be better than Neymar first, which he isn't yet."

Neymar after scoring his first goal against Real Madrid
Neymar after scoring his first goal against Real Madrid©Getty Images

• A 56,500 crowd came to greet Neymar at Camp Nou when he signed for Barcelona in June 2013. Messi liked the look of him too: "He is still very young and joyful. He lives happily, a kid without malice."

• Scored and set up the winner in his first Clásico – a 2-1 success against Madrid on 26 October 2013.

• After failing to net in his first five UEFA Champions League games, he hit a hat-trick in his sixth: a 6-1 thrashing of Celtic on 11 December 2013.

• Became the first man to score in both Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League final victories, notching the third in Barcelona's 3-1 win over Juventus in 2015. Was joint-top scorer in that competition with ten goals, level with Messi and Ronaldo.

• Struck 39 times as Barcelona's Messi, Suárez and Neymar (aka 'MSN') front three scored a Spanish-record combined total of 122 goals in 2014/15. However, 2015/16 brought his best Liga tally: 24.

• Reached 100 goals for Barcelona in his 177th match – a 3-1 win against Granada on 2 April 2017.

Neymar after scoring at Guingamp on his Paris debut
Neymar after scoring at Guingamp on his Paris debut©AFP/Getty Images

• Moving to Paris for a reputed €222m, Neymar became the most expensive player ever, apparently costing €100m more than record-holder Paul Pogba. "We want to help Neymar become the best player in the world," said then-coach Unai Emery.

• Supplied a goal and an assist on his debut, a 3-0 success at Guingamp on 13 August 2017. Lucas Deaux did not enjoy marking him. "I'll struggle to sleep," he said afterwards. "I have never seen a player like this before."

• The Eiffel Tower was lit up in Neymar's honour before his home bow on 20 August, and Neymar did not disappoint, scoring twice and producing an outrageous piece of skill in a 6-2 mauling of Toulouse (see tweet below).

Ended 2017/18, his first Paris season, with 28 goals from 30 games – and a domestic treble.

Neymar celebrates 2016 Olympic success with Brazil
Neymar celebrates 2016 Olympic success with Brazil©Getty Images

• Then-Brazil coach Dunga ignored a 14,000-signature petition by choosing not to take the uncapped Neymar to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The 18-year-old later made his point by netting on his debut in a 2-0 friendly win against the United States in August 2010.

• Suffered a cracked vertebra in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup on home soil, thus missing the 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany – perhaps the most humiliating loss in Brazilian history.

• Bagged the fastest goal in Olympic football history, just 14 seconds into Brazil's 6-0 pasting of Honduras in the 2016 quarter-finals in Rio, the hosts proceeding to win the tournament.

What you might not know

Neymar and his son Davi Lucca, pictured in 2016
Neymar and his son Davi Lucca, pictured in 2016©Getty Images

• Neymar has loads of tattoos, some of which celebrate his family: his sister Rafaella's face is tattoed on his arm, his son's name Davi Lucca on his calf. Following Brazil's football triumph at the Olympics, he got Rio 2016 emblazoned on his arm.

• A restaurant in Vincennes, near Paris, created a 'Neymar Burger' in his honour. Ingredients: steak, potatoes, bacon, cheddar, salsa, tomatoes, salad, onions and a side order of French fries.

• Has a sideline in acting, appearing opposite Samuel L Jackson in 2017's XXX: The Return of Xander Cage after a series of walk-on parts in Brazilian soap operas and TV dramas.

• His dog Poker is named after one of his favourite card games.

• Was nicknamed 'Batman' at Barcelona, less for his love of the Marvel comics character than for his adventures after dark – Neymar being renowned for liking the city's nightlife, albeit he stuck to club rules!

What he says

'There is no pressure when you are making a dream come true'
'There is no pressure when you are making a dream come true'©AFP/Getty Images

"I came to Paris to be the best player in the world and to turn PSG into the best club in the world, which includes a Champions League trophy. We're ready and fear no one."

"Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both my heroes. If I can take a little from each player's game and make it my own, I would be very happy."

"I would go into the dressing room [after joining Barcelona], look to one side and see Messi. Then I'd look the other way and see Xavi, Iniesta, Piqué, Dani Alves. I thought I was in a video game! One day I was playing with them on the console, the next I was one of them."

"There is no pressure when you are making a dream come true."

What he might achieve yet

• Lead Paris to UEFA Champions League glory. The club's sole continental success to date came with the 1995/96 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. The only French side to have won Europe's top club prize were Marseille in 1992/93.

Will Neymar break Pelé's Brazil scoring record?
Will Neymar break Pelé's Brazil scoring record?©Getty Images

• Become the top-scoring Brazilian in UEFA club competitions; with 32, he is already his nation's leading UEFA Champions League scorer, and needs eight more to match Sonny Anderson's UEFA competition mark.

• Earn a century of Brazil caps, something just six players have achieved: Cafu (142), Roberto Carlos (125), Dani Alves (105), Lúcio (105), Claudio Taffarel (101) and Robinho (100).

• Become Brazil's all-time top marksman: he has scored 60 so far, putting him third in the all-time rankings. Pelé is first with 77, Ronaldo second with 62. Cafu said: "All records exist to be broken. He's young and has time on his side."

• Achieve a personal ambition by playing under Josep Guardiola. "Guardiola is a guy that I really admire and who I would love to work with," he said, but there are other items on his bucket list. "I have a wish to go back to Brazil some day and I'd also like to play in the USA, those two countries are where I want to play later in my career."