Athletes from across the world have been ranked according to their marketing potential over a three-year period from this summer.
- Value for money
- Home market
- Willingness to be marketed
- Crossover appeal
Brazilian, 25, Soccer
Former wonder kid maturing into soccer’s number one
Representatives: Wagner Ribeiro, Neymar da Silva
Key partners: Nike, Panasonic, Claro, Volkswagen, Gillette
2016 ranking: 8
From 4-0 and then 5-3 down against Paris Saint-Germain in the Uefa Champions League, FC Barcelona have clawed themselves back into the tie, making the most impossible of comebacks look somehow plausible. But time is running out when the ball falls to Neymar outside the Paris penalty area. He’s already scored a peach of a free kick and kept his nerve to slot home a penalty under the most unbelievable pressure, and now the chance to complete the hat-trick to crown this extraordinary performance is in sight.
What happens next is perhaps the best illustration of why Neymar is now the senior soccer player on this list. Instead of powering goalwards, an insouciant flick of the Brazilian’s boot sends a perfectly weighted pass to Sergi Roberto, who converts from six yards, putting Barcelona through. It is a moment representative of his increasing maturity.
“Neymar has a totally different interpretation of football from anyone, even to any Brazilian… He is more like a ballet dancer than a football player.” – Luis Enrique, former FC Barcelona manager.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may remain the world’s best players, but their time is coming to an end. Neymar still represents a long-term, blue-chip investment, a chance for sponsors to not just be associated with the heir to soccer’s throne but with the global mega brands of FC Barcelona and Brazil’s Seleção too. Neymar retains the world at his feet. It’s unlikely that what he does with it next will be predictable. AN