The best professional athletes bring a steely single-mindedness to their performances. It’s no surprise that they often use metaphors borrowed from war to describe their mindsets. Yet off the field, athletes often surprise fans by being just as sweet and thoughtful as anybody else. That’s certainly true for Brazilian soccer star Neymar.
The world recently glimpsed Neymar’s soft side in a heartwarming video with a young fan. Let’s look at Neymar‘s scintillating soccer career and everything you should know about the viral moment.
Early years of stardom for Neymar
Neymar got his professional star at the age of 17, when he joined the Brazilian club Santos FC. From 2009-13, he played a significant role in the club winning two Campeonato Paulista championships in a row, as well as a Copa do Brasil, and the Copa Libertadores in 2011. In 224 games with the club, the talented young forward racked up 136 goals and 65 assists, per Sportskeeda.
Neymar made his leap to the EUFA Champions League in 2013, when he joined FC Barcelona. Playing with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, Neymar scored 22 goals and seven assists in the 2014-15 season, per FB Ref. One of the best seasons in Barcelona’s history, Neymar also helped the club capture its second continental treble of all time, reports Goal.com.
Neymar turned in an even stronger performance the next year — 24 goals and 12 assists — with Barcelona winning a domestic double. In the summer of 2016, Neymar helped the Brazilian national team win a gold medal at the Olympics. Yet his production for Barcelona dropped off in the 2016-17 season, when he had 13 goals and 11 assists.
Neymar moves to Paris
That season, rumors began to swirl that Neymar was growing tired of playing in the shadow of the legendary Messi. Then, in August 2017, news broke that Neymar activated his release clause with Barcelona to go play for Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar’s five-year contract with PSG was a staggering $262 million. It made him the most expensive player in the history of the game, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Neymar’s career with PSG so far has had its ups and downs. He’s been periodically bothered by injuries, and also served a suspension for apparently punching a fan who was heckling him. A recent New York Times opinion piece concluded that Neymar’s move to Paris has been a “comprehensive failure.”
It’s true that Neymar hasn’t managed to convert on his assumed goal of winning a Ballon d’Or. And his play has been inconsistent at times. Yet Neymar was still the most important factor in PSG netting a domestic quadruple in 2019-20—not to mention making it to their first-ever Champions League Final. CBS Sports recently reported that Neymar and PSG were close to finalizing a four-year contract extension to keep him in Paris.
A heartwarming fan interaction
Neymar has earned a certain notoriety for his at-times unpredictable behavior in his personal life. At one point, Neymar was even accused of rape by Brazilian model Najila Trindade, although the case was ultimately suspended due to lack of evidence, per the BBC. Still, that incident left Neymar in need of some positive PR.
He finally got it in the form of a viral video of the soccer star interacting with a very young fan. In the video, which has been viewed over 9 million times, the boy asks Neymar if he will do a special dance the next time he scores a goal. The boy then demonstrates exactly the dance move he has in mind.
The second half of the video shows Neymar later scoring a goal in a game — and then immediately breaking out in the young boy’s dance. He had apparently even taught the move to four of his teammates, who begin dancing alongside him.