Before last Monday, Brazil star Neymar had only played once at the Estádio Mané Garrincha.
It was his final game for Santos, ahead of his long-awaited transfer to Europe. His destination was Barcelona, who won a long and often tedious bidding war with Real Madrid for his signature.
Neymar felt the full force of the occasion. During the Brazil anthem, a single tear rolled down his cheek. The nation ’s brightest prospect for 20 years was flying the roost. The big wide world beckoned.
Many doubted he was good enough for one of Europe’s best clubs. A show pony, they called him. A YouTube sensation. Not fit to lace Lionel Messi’s boots, let alone grab the spotlight from him.
This article appeared in a Daily Mirror spread on the World Cup's poster boys. You can read the rest here, and Ed Malyon's take on Lionel Messi here.