A world-record transfer & metatarsal misery - Neymar's highs and lows
Few could have anticipated 10 years ago, when a 17-year-old by the name of Neymar was brought on for final half hour of Santos' clash with Oeste in a small stadium in Sao Paulo, that he would go on to become the most expensive player in world football.
Thursday marked the tenth anniversary of Neymar's first steps as a professional footballer and it has been a rollercoaster ride for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar since then.
While Neymar has already achieved so much in the game, there are plenty who would argue the often tempestuous forward has yet to realise his full potential.
The debate over the merits of Neymar's achievements in football will likely rumble on for some time, but here we reflect on his career so far with a look at his highs and lows.
High: A 2011 breakthrough
Neymar's breakthrough as one of the best in South America came in 2011. He helped Santos to the second of three successive Campeonato Paulista titles and won the FIFA Puskas Award for a stunning individual goal against Flamengo. The highlight, though, came as he scored six goals, including one in the second leg of the final against Penarol, to lead Santos to Copa Libertadores glory.
Low: An Olympic let-down
His reputation already burgeoning, Neymar did not exactly deliver on the world stage in 2012 as Brazil again fell short in the Olympic Games. He found the net three times as they reached the final, but drew a blank in the showpiece, in which the Selecao suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to Mexico.
High: Arrival at Camp Nou
After an emotional farewell to Santos, Neymar announced on May 27, 2013 that he would join Barcelona, who unveiled him the following week after a transfer later revealed to have cost them €86.2million. More than 50,000 fans were there to welcome him at Camp Nou.
Low: Brazil humiliated on home soil
Neymar took some time to adapt to life at Barca, scoring 15 goals in his first season. However, even if his maiden campaign in Catalonia was a mild disappointment, it was still nothing compared to what he experienced at the 2014 World Cup, where he was effectively the poster boy for hosts Brazil. Neymar was on target four times in helping Brazil to the semi-finals but, after suffering a back injury against Colombia, he could only watch on in horror as his team-mates were humiliated 7-1 by Germany at Estadio Mineirao.
Whereas Neymar's first season was mixed, his second was an indisputable triumph. He scored 39 goals in all competitions, forming an attacking trident with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez that became known as "MSN" and scored 122 goals in 2014-15. Barca won the treble, which was completed by a 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus where Neymar had the final say.
High: Olympic glory in Rio
Sidelined for the game now known in Brazil as the Agony of Mineirao, Neymar helped heal the wounds of the World Cup semi-final and the Olympic failure of four years earlier by leading Brazil to their first gold medal, defeating Germany in the final. Neymar scored his fourth goal of the tournament to give Brazil the lead and netted the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out after Max Meyer cancelled out his opener.
High: A world-record transfer
A deal that seemed unimaginable when Neymar inspired Barca's incredible Champions League comeback from a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG came to fruition as the French club pulled off a world-record €222million transfer, bringing a protracted and turbulent saga to a remarkable end.
Low: Metatarsal misery
Neymar Mania hits Paris!!! pic.twitter.com/4DcaWx88cd— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) August 4, 2017
Neymar wasted no time in making an impact at PSG and already has 48 goals for the club to his name, however, his time in the French capital has been defined by a pair of metatarsal injuries. A fracture suffered against Marseille last February reduced him to the role of spectator in a Champions League last 16 loss to Real Madrid, and a similar injury sustained during a win over Strasbourg this January again saw him left powerless as PSG let slip a 2-0 first-leg lead over Manchester United at the same stage. Neymar was left to fume on the touchline and via social media after a VAR review saw the Red Devils awarded a decisive late penalty.
Low: More World Cup woe
Neymar recovered in time from the first of those metatarsal injuries to feature for Brazil at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which was once again a frustrating experience for him and his country. After an underwhelming group stage and a last-16 win over Mexico, a campaign in which Neymar was heavily criticised for perceived play-acting was ended by a 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Much like his former Barca team-mate Messi, Neymar's international achievements pale in comparison to what he has done at club level, and he will look to outshine his Argentina counterpart and deliver glory on home soil for Brazil in the Copa America this year.