NEYMAR: The 20-Year-Old Brazilian Soccer Phenom Using The 2012 Olympics To Propel His Stardom To Even Greater Heights

Neymar Pele

Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

At only 20 years old, Neymar is already mentioned in the same breath as other brilliant Brazilian soccer stars of the past — Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and even Pele (the two are pictured right).On top of being so young, Neymar still plays professionally in Brazil, which means few soccer fans get to see his amazing exploits.

Chances are good he’ll leave for Europe once his current contract runs out after the 2014 World Cup. And when that happens the whole world will get to see why there’s so much hype around Neymar.

But for now most of us will have to settle for this year’s Olympic games, where Neymar hopes to lead his favoured Brazilian team to its first Olympic gold medal.

Neymar was born in 1992. His father, Neymar Sr., played professionally in Brazil

Neymar's father may have been a pro soccer player, but he was no star. After retiring he had to work three jobs in order to support Neymar and his sister

Source: NYT

At age 11, club teams from all over Brazil came asking for his services. Neymar chose to play for Santos FC's youth team

Source: NYT

Only three years later, European power Real Madrid came calling. But he stayed home on the advice of his father

Source: NYT

Neymar made his pro debut with Santos FC at 17. But his ascendancy into soccer lore began a year later, in 2010, when he scored 5 goals in one game

By the time Neymar was 18 he was leading Santos FC to the championship of Brazil's top league with 42 goals in 60 games

Source: NYT

A year later he caused a huge uproar in Brazil by fathering a child out of wedlock (think US teenage celebrity doing the same and multiply it several million times)

Source: NYT

Despite Neymar and his father's insistence that he's not leaving Brazil, European clubs like Chelsea, Barcelona, Arsenal, and Manchester City continue to ask Santos FC about his availability

Sources: Daily Mail and Sky Sports

And who can blame them? Watch Neymar's crazy dribbling skills against Argentina

Although Neymar steers clear of the Messi comparisons, Pele has chimed in. The greatest player ever thinks Neymar is more technically advanced than Messi

Source: NYT

FIFA awarded Neymar with the goal of the year in 2011 for this strike

Source: FIFA

Source: Sky Sports

There's been some backlash to Neymar's massive ego, however. An immature and ugly game incident lead to Santos firing the coach in favour of its coddled star in 2010. No one is a fan of his constant diving, either

With sponsorships from Nike, Volkswagen, Red Bull, and others, Neymar's total yearly earnings are more than $20 million

Source: Goal.com

With all of that in the background, Neymar is now poised to lead Brazil to its first ever Olympic gold medal

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