At just 19, Brazilian attacker David Neres has joined Ajax for what is thought to be the record fee paid by an Eredivisie club to a foreign side. But who is the new man from Sao Paulo?
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On the last day of the transfer window, Ajax signed 19-year-old Brazilian attacker David Neres from São Paulo for an initial €12m. That breaks the record fee paid by an Eredivisie club to a foreign side set back in 2000 when Mateja Kežman joined PSV Eindhoven from Partizan.
Ajax, preparing to face Legia Warszawa in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, have given Neves a contract until summer 2021. We introduce a player who only made his senior club debut in October, but was making waves well before then.
What is his background?
At the age of ten, David Neres joined home-town club São Paulo's youth academy, his father being a passionate supporter of the club. Neres moved up the ranks, culminating in him being voted best player in the 2015 Brazilian Under-20 Cup, when he was also top scorer as his team lifted the trophy. He then went on to spearhead the São Paulo team that won the U20 Copa Libertadores last February.
Delayed senior breakthrough
Neres seemed set for an immediate promotion to the first team but a serious shoulder injury delayed his breakthrough. "I was a little bit scared," he said. "I feared I would not be able to play the same way, because I was in my best form before that. But I had everyone's support, I recovered and I ended up coming back confident, determined to work and to show off my football."
Finally, on 17 October, the teenage Neres was given his senior bow in a 2-1 defeat of Fluminense. Coach Ricardo Gomes said: "He has lots of quality. That's why he is at São Paulo. He as a very particular style of play. He has just came back from surgery, but I'm sure good things will happen to him in his future. He has personality and he will grow a lot."
After his debut, Neres admitted: "I was a little bit nervous at first. It's natural. But I know the club believes in me and I tried to give my best. My first touch in the game was good and that gave me the confidence I needed."
In the goals
Just five days later Neres was on the scoresheet for São Paulo in a 2-0 defeat of Ponte Preta. "I didn't even knew how to celebrate," he said at the time.
By the time his move to Ajax was confirmed, Neres had three goals from just eight appearances, including one in a 4-0 defeat of local rivals Corinthians. "São Paulo always helped me and I try to repay them every time I wear this shirt," he said.
On 11 November, Neres made his debut for the Brazil U20 team, providing the assist for the winner in 1-0 friendly defeat of Mexico. "I tried to make the most of this opportunity, as I always do," he said. "Despite being a friendly match, it is an honour for me to represent my country."
He was then called up for the current South American U20 Championship in Ecaudor. He helped Brazil through their preliminary group into the final round robin, where as well as the title, four places in this year's FIFA U-20 World Cup are up for grabs. Once the tournament is over on 11 February, Neres will link up with Ajax.
Neres is a fast winger with a crafty left foot who can play on both flanks. Excellent on the dribble, he can trick an opponent and still provide a cutting edge with an assist or finish. Sometimes he is compared to Neymar, but those are big shoes to fill.
Fitting in at Ajax
Ajax play their trademark 4-3-3, with room for an attacker on each wing. With the move from Anwar El Ghazi to Lille, Neres could inherit the slot on the right. However, especially as he will not arrive until mid-February, it may take time for him to adjust to a team already well into their season.
Off the pitch
Despite his irreverent style on the field, Neres says he is much more slow-paced when he is not playing football: "I like to stay at home, with my family," he said. "And I am not that much of a video game guy. I prefer to play cards."
What they say
"Neres is a player we have been eager to sign for a while. He is one of the biggest talents in South America, so it is beautiful he chose Ajax. He is a right winger who can also play on the left, which is just what we need. He is still 19 years old, and will have to adjust, but I think we will already be able use him this season. We do not have too many wingers and have a lot of important matches to play. So I am happy that he will be here soon and not just in the summer."
Ajax director of player policy and former winger Marc Overmars.
"I asked him if he felt he was ready. He simply answered: 'I've always been ready.' It was a great answer. With that response he showed he is a calm boy, conscious of his responsibilities."
São Paulo's football director Marco Aurélio Cunha after Neres's senior debut.