When you share an attack with one of the greatest goalscorers of a generation, Luis Suarez, and the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, it can sometimes be hard to gain recognition. Even for supporters of his own club, FC Barcelona, Neymar can be quite a divisive topic; while he can produce moments of pure genius with his flair and technique, he can also frustrate with his occasional moments of wastefulness.
This season for example, Neymar is contributing in excess of a goal per game (either directly, or by assisting his teammates) and yet there are some vocal Cules who have expressed displeasure at his performances. For them, it's not a question of what he has accomplished, it's a question of what he could be delivering. At times, the dribbling and the tricks are seen as "too much", but to ask Neymar to rein it in would be to remove the very essence of what makes him special.
As a young child, Neymar excelled at futsal, a game that not only rewards technical skill but almost encourages players to attempt the unexpected. The change of pace, the dribbling and the footwork that goes alongside it; these are all fundamentals that helped Neymar stand out from the rest and make such a successful transition to the professional game with Santos.
To me, those skills that some can find frustrating are a throwback to what got me hooked on football in the first place — like so many others, I was captivated by the idea of joga bonito, of course in it's literal definition, but primarily because of it's main champion in the early part of this millennium: Ronaldinho.
Football, played with a smile. And just like Ronaldinho before him, Neymar has taken up the mantle of inspiring more than just a nation — but the world as a whole with his skills.
In a recent documentary, FourFourTwo caught up with Neymar to discuss his path to stardom, charting his rise from the futsal scene as a youngster to where he stands today, as one of the very best players in the world of football through interviews with former coaches as well as past and present teammates.
It's a great watch, particularly for the clip at the end in which Neymar reveals a secret talent...