Ballon d’Or: The world owes Neymar a prestigious title – Let’s take a look back at his peak journey at Parc des Princes

“Ballon d’Or: The world owes Neymar a prestigious title – Let’s take a look back at his peak journey at Parc des Princes.”


Neymar at PSG: The Maturation of a Controversial StarNeymar is arguably the most polarizing figure in the world of football. Many see him as a genius, while others consider him reckless. However, the Brazilian player has been showing maturity and has become the key to PSG’s success against strong opponents from the EPL, La Liga, and beyond.


On August 4, 2017, Neymar made a groundbreaking move to PSG, sealing a world-record transfer fee of €222 million. Barcelona had to watch as he shattered the release clause to chase the allure of riches in France.


For many, Neymar was perceived as greedy, selfish, and theatric on the field, often accused of diving, feigning injuries, and prioritizing showmanship. Some likened him to a temperamental horse, a larger-than-life character with a childlike demeanor.


However, Pini Zahavi, the super-agent closely associated with Neymar, had a different perspective. “Most of the world doesn’t really know the real Neymar,” Zahavi noted. “They only read stories in the newspapers without ever interacting with Neymar.”


Neymar himself challenged the criticism, saying in an interview with French TV channel TF1’s Sept a Huit, “People don’t know who I really am; they only know what they see in the media and on social media.”


So, as PSG prepared to face Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final, what do those who truly know Neymar say about him, and what has the 29-year-old star revealed about himself?


Zahavi had been working with Neymar since the forward was just 16 years old and played a pivotal role in bringing him to PSG. He has never doubted Neymar’s abilities and what he could achieve in football. “With all the respect I have for Ronaldo and Messi, I believe Neymar is the greatest talent football has ever seen. This isn’t because of my relationship with him,” Zahavi told Telegraph Sport. “I’m certain that when Neymar retires, everyone will understand that.”


However, not everyone at PSG shared this sentiment. Two years ago, the club was disappointed with Neymar, analyzing matches and concluding that he only gave 60% effort. Even club president and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi stated, “I don’t want to see any more ‘superstar behavior’ in the team.”


Neymar didn’t deny his love for parties and famously celebrated his 28th birthday in all-white attire at Yoyo nightclub in Paris. “When I want to party, I’ll party. No one can tell me not to. I’m a guy who knows when to do what and what not to do,” Neymar said in the TF1 interview. “Contrary to what people think, that I’m not mature and don’t know what I’m doing. I won’t go into details. Everyone knows what kind of person I am.”


“Many people like to talk about things off the field more than football matters. I enjoy parties and know when it’s appropriate to attend them. You can’t focus 100% on football all the time; it would drive you crazy. It’s a moment of relaxation and enjoyment. I won’t stop doing that,” Neymar added.


Zahavi noted that this is an essential part of Neymar’s personality and likened him to fellow Brazilians like Ronaldinho. Neymar’s suburban home in western Paris is always open to friends and teammates, emphasizing his generosity and the relationships he builds.


Remarkably, most of the criticism Neymar faced did not come from his teammates. While there was tension with Edinson Cavani a few years ago over a penalty dispute, Neymar later handed over a penalty to Cavani in a subsequent game.

“Neymar is a good boy and is always willing to help others.” Zahavi said. “He’s a family man who takes care of his family and friends.”

Neymar himself spoke about this in an interview with Crespo-Mara, recalling how he once asked his mother for a cookie when they went shopping at the age of six. With the family relying on government-provided food packages, Neymar’s mother told him they could only afford dinner.

Neymar remembered saying, “One day, I will become rich and buy a whole cookie factory. Sometimes, kids have wild dreams. Looking back on it now, it’s emotional. People think everything came easy for me, but in reality, I had to fight to achieve what I have today.”

Over the past four seasons, Neymar has matured significantly. He may not wear the captain’s armband, but he’s become a true leader at PSG, alongside goalkeeper Keylor Navas. They are both influential voices in the dressing room, helping PSG reach the Champions League final last season and the semi-finals this season.

In the Champions League over the past two years, Neymar has consistently delivered outstanding performances. His contribution should not be overlooked, especially when PSG has reached the semi-finals twice with him, while his former club Barcelona has achieved this only once.

“Even without the captain’s armband, Neymar is the leader of the team,” Zahavi said. “His influence on other players is incredible. They respect Neymar. It’s no coincidence that Tuchel once said that without him, PSG would never have reached the Champions League final.”

Current PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino also values Neymar’s role. “From the first day I arrived at PSG, he welcomed me warmly,” Pochettino said. “Neymar is humble, always listening, and takes instructions very well.”

Statistics show that Neymar has been running more while maintaining his creative and scoring abilities. This is a far cry from the image of Neymar being selective about matches and often nursing mysterious injuries around his sister Rafaella Santos’ birthday.

Neymar still cherishes his family, whom he calls “a gift from God.” However, he has come to prioritize the club’s achievements.

Close associates of Neymar have revealed that PSG reaching the Champions League final was a turning point for him. He realized that he could achieve greatness with the team without needing to leave. In fact, he’s open to a new deal.

“Yes, I’m very happy here,” Neymar told TF1. “I’m not exactly sure what has changed, but there have been differences. Now I want to stay at PSG, and I hope Mbappe does too. That’s what all PSG fans want. We want to make PSG great.”

Neymar and Mbappe have a strong relationship, and PSG hopes Neymar’s decision to stay might influence Mbappe to do the same.

“I’m like a big brother to Mbappe. We often tease each other, but I also ask him to do certain things on and off the field,” Neymar said. “I call Mbappe the ‘Golden Boy.’ He’s an incredible player.”

PSG seems determined to win the Champions League this season with Neymar at the forefront. “Losing a Champions League final is truly difficult,” Neymar said about the defeat to Bayern Munich. “I was in pain, and I cried a lot. We couldn’t bring the first-ever title to the club, but we will do everything to achieve that this season.”

Over the past four seasons, Neymar has grown from a controversial figure to a revered leader at PSG. He is the foundation of PSG’s hope for their first-ever Champions League title.

But all of this changed when Lionel Messi arrived.

PSG has shifted from being a dominant club that reached consecutive Champions League finals to one that struggles against smaller clubs. Neymar and Mbappe have become disillusioned, and even PSG is considering moving Messi out to make the team stronger.

This period also saw Neymar plagued by injuries, leading to his transfer to Al Hilal, an Arabian club, where he enjoys a life of luxury.

While he is still recovering from injuries and has yet to play a game, Neymar is living a happy and fulfilled life there.

Let’s look forward to Neymar’s recovery and his return to the field with Al Hilal.

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