Neymar’s development since moving from his homeland of Brazil into Europe has been nothing short of mesmerising.
His remarkable balance, outrageous confidence and effortless flair has sharply turned him into one of the game’s best attacking players and helped Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side become the best team in world again.
Neymar, who turned just 24 today, has seamlessly fitted into the Catalan set-up and alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez has developed a telepathic trio that simply doesn’t stop scoring goals. The Brazilian has scored 75 goals in 120 games since moving to La Liga in 2013 and he has also racked up 46 assists.
Neymar’s unique talent was monitored from an early age and his scintillating performances for Santos put the forward on a number of top european clubs’ shopping lists.
But it was Barcelona who made the purchase and paid an initial £49 million.
The striker’s rise to stardom has got us thinking about other players who could follow his route and it turns out there are a number of promising Brazilian’s making similar movements to what the Barcelona man was doing in 2012.
Neymar is clearly special and was blessed with outstanding ability but here are eight players who are just a few more step-overs, blind passes, heel flicks and a load of goals away from matching Brazil’s boy wonder.
Current club: Santos
Neymar, Robinho, Pepe and Pele all famously broke out of Santos’ excellent youth academy and Gabriel Barbosa looks set to be the next starlet to do so.
The 19-year-old possesses outstanding raw ability, confidence and an intriguing star quality that likens him to Neymar.
Although his playing style slightly differs to the Barcelona man’s, his gritty, well-balanced and creative performances can single-handedly win games.
Perhaps a comparison to Luis Suárez or Alexis Sánchez would be more fitting for the Santos number ten who is the latest Brazilian starlet to be linked with a host of european clubs and labelled the next ‘big thing’.
He has contributed to a number of his side’s attacks during the 2015/16 season and was mainly deployed on the right-hand side while Ricardo Oliveira, who scored 20 league goals, acted as a more central striker.
Position: Central striker/inside forward
Current club: Palmeiras
Palmeiras have a great track record of developing excellent Brazilian youth talent and Gabriel Jesus is the latest on their production line.
After joining the side in 2012 the forward has moved his way through the youth ranks and has now established himself as a first team player, aged just 18.
Similar to Neymar, the player roams in from the left or right hand side as well as being capable of playing as an outright attacker.
More similarities with the Brazilian captain stem from his sublime dribbling ability coupled with his destructive speed and work rate.
Aged 18 we shouldn’t judge his goalscoring too soon but the player will slightly frustrated to not have grabbed a few more goals and he only found the net four times in 20 appearances.
Certainly one to watch, the tireless forward will be looking to continue his progress and earn a move to Europe.
Current club: Chelsea
A vastly talented creative player Kenedy made the move from Fluminense to Chelsea in 2015 and has made seven appearances for the Blues, aged just 19.
We’re yet to see the explosive performances that the Brazilian demonstrated in his homeland and it seems his best position is still relatively unknown with the player acting as a winger or full back during his short time in the Premier League.
He has made a number of appearances at Brazil youth level and is an excellent prospect, let’s hope he didn’t move to Europe too early.
Current club: Gremio
A natural goalscorer, Luan impressed greatly during the 2015/16 season and was named in the team of the year alongside Santos’ Ricardo Oliveira.
The striker grabbed 10 goals in 33 appearances for Gremio and established himself as one of the best attacking threats in the league.
Rumours have spread that Real Madrid have been keeping an eye on the 22-year-old’s progress as they’re desperate not to miss out on the ‘next Neymar’ like they did with the ‘real’ one.
The forward’s goalscoring will have to improve but he certainly has the potential to become a big player in Europe.
Position: Striker/inside forward
Current club: Bordeaux
Malcom recently moved from Corinthians to Bordeaux in a move that went relatively under the radar despite the player acting as the Brazilian side’s main attacking threat last season.
Normally deployed behind the main striker or as an inside forward, he has the ability to ghost past defenders as well as deliver some excellent assists for his teammates.
His comparisons with Neymar come from similar dribbling skills and his ability to change direction at speed. And after sealing a move to Europe he will look to develop even further as Bordeaux look to challenge for Europe again.
Current club: Free Agent
A key member of the Brazil youth ranks, the terrifyingly named Mosquito made nine appearances for the Selecao U17s.
His career hasn’t taken off as once expected and after performing well during his first season for Atlético Paranaense he moved to Desportivo Brasil before loan switches to Vasco da Gama and Spanish side Llagostera.
The 20-year-old will have to develop hugely if he wants to emulate Neymar’s success but the striker is blessed with lightning pace and excellent dribbling skills.
But now without a club, he’ll need to re-invigorate his career sharpish to start impressing once again.
Current club: Botafogo (on loan from Cruzeiro)
After joining Santos’ youth set-up in 2008 the striker, aged 14, was sensational and finished as the club’s top goalscorer in the 2013 Copa Sao Paulo Junior tournament.
His performances instantly captured the attention of a host of european club including strong interest from Chelsea.
After being promoted to the Brazilian side’s first team he was sharply labelled as the ‘new Neymar’ but didn’t flourish like the Barcelona man and moved to Cruzeiro in June 2014 but again didn’t settle.
Now on loan Botafogo, hopefully he’ll start to show why he was so sought-after during the very early stages of his career.
Current club: Benfica
Another young Brazilian talent who has earned a move to Europe is Victor Andrade.
Although he is yet to take off for his new club he demonstrated excellent promise as a young player and aged just 20 will be hoping to establish himself as a first choice starter for the Portuguese side.
After signing a deal with Santos in 2011 he was labelled as the ‘next Neymar’ due his explosive dribbling skills and ability to go past defenders.
He only spent two years in Brazil before being noticed by a host of European sides and he will look to develop further now he is at a very talented Benfica side, although he is currently on loan at Vitoria Guimarães.