Neymar Brazilian, 19, Soccer (-)
For all the reputations lost in the hunt for the next big thing, many will still be confidently staked on 19-year-old Brazilian soccer starlet Neymar. The list of European clubs linked with the Santos striker reads like the draw for the quarter-finals of the Uefa Champions League, with Chelsea, by many accounts, set to become his next employer this summer.
The sponsors courting him are just as high profile, and he has worked with both renowned agency Traffic Sports Management and, from April 2011, former Brazil striker Ronaldo’s 9ine. Nike recently signed the striker to an 11-year deal, while Panasonic spent US$2.4 million to secure his services for two years in March. Given the impression he has already made in Brazilian soccer, their interest is hardly surprising. Neymar averages nearly a goal every two games for Santos – a rate which is rising – and thrills their fans with pace and bewildering close control.
Unfazed by inevitable comparisons with Santos great Pele, he has slipped comfortably into the famous yellow shirt of his national team. His first three appearances brought three goals, with two on his first major European appearance against Scotland at London’s Emirates Stadium. Neymar was forthright when a racism row flared briefly after that game, and has also demonstrated a welcome capacity for mischief. Celebrating a typically brilliant individual goal in April’s 3-2 Copa Libertadores win over Colo-Colo, the teenager pulled on a mask of his own face – upside down. The referee failed to see the funny side, dismissing the youngster for a second bookable offence, but the incident made for a worldwide YouTube hit.