Always touting the next best thing coming out from Brazil’s youth system, Neymar’s ascension to greatness was always scrutinised and micromanaged, with a huge magnifying glass analysing each move made by the Brazilian stalwart.
Since he was only a teenager, Neymar’s star shined brightly and he became a big topic in Brazil when he was 18 years old and the 2010 FIFA World Cup was approaching. The inflexible Brazil manager, Dunga, refused to take Neymar in the 23-man roster for the South American powerhouse.
Predictably, Brazil lost against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals at South Africa 2010 and everything came crashing down for Dunga, as Neymar’s absence was chief in a long list of mishaps that resulted in the manager’s sacking.
Four years later, Neymar was there at Brazil 2014, when the South American side crashed out after a humiliating 1-7 loss against Germany in the semi-finals. At Russia 2018, Brazil were eliminated by Belgium in the quarter-finals and Neymar was still looking for silverware.
But at Qatar 2022, the stage was set. Now 30 years old, the Brazil star had everything he needed to have his name enshrined in the Pantheon of the Selecao. An excellent supporting cast, a great team, a true family, the scene was all set for Neymar to shine and bring Brazil their sixth trophy at the FIFA World Cup, extending the domination of the South American powerhouse in world football.
The Brazil Number 10 was also at 100% physically, after nagging injuries derailed the previous campaign, albeit an ankle injury saw him miss two games in the group phase. But Brazil won that group and set up an excellent path to the trophy.
Only Neymar missed that chance again, despite scoring three goals, tying Pele’s all-time goal scoring record for Brazil and being a true leader, as Brazil crashed out in the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022, conceding a loss against Croatia after a penalty shootout that left the whole country in tears.
Inconsolable, the striker was left in tears and only a heart-warming moment, when Ivan Perisic’s son, Leo, came to hug him in the centre of the pitch, helped Neymar improve his spirits a bit.
Deep down, though, Neymar was a wreck. His dream of lifting the trophy above his head was gone. It was his third FIFA World Cup edition. He will be 34 come to the next tournament, in 2026.
He’ll surely be there. Or not?
“Honestly, I do not know. I think talking now is bad because of the heat of the moment. Maybe I’m not thinking straight. To say that this is the end would be rushing myself, but I don’t guarantee anything either. Let’s see what happens going forward,” said the Brazil striker.
Neymar did tie Pele’s record for the largest number of goals scored for Brazil, 77, and entered in the all-time international top scorer list, on the tenth position. The Brazil striker will now be definitely the top scorer for the most decorated team on the planet.
But how does his resume with Brazil look? He only won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013. He was a runner-up in the Copa America in 2021. And he is also a winner at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when he made it his mission to secure the gold medal in front of the home fans.
But apart from that, nothing.
He has eight goals at the FIFA World Cup, with four other Brazil players – Ronaldo, Pele, Ademir and Jairzinho – scoring more than Neymar.
“I want to take this time to think about it, think about what I want for myself. I will not close the door to playing with Brazil, nor do I say 100% that I’ll come back. I need to think a bit more about this, about what is the right thing for me and for the national team, ” added Neymar.
“It is an awful feeling, I think this is a worse feeling than what happened at the last World Cup. It is difficult to find the words to describe this moment,” concluded the Brazil striker.
With manager Tite gone, Brazil needs another setup for the future. One that his successor will surely find a difficult task. But whoever will coach this Brazil side, will need Neymar on the pitch. Otherwise, it will be tough. Even impossible.