Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Meet Wendell Lira, Brazil's surprise winner of the Puskas Award for best goal of 2015

You know you've made it when Pelé knows your name.

"I was delighted that Wendell Lira won the Puskas Award for goal of the year," said the Brazil icon after Monday night's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

He was not alone: in seeing off competition from some of football's biggest stars – Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Carli Lloyd – the Vila Nova forward struck a blow for the underdog, capturing hearts and minds around the globe.

Indeed, only Wendell stood between Messi and a clean sweep of awards on the night, succeeding where Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, failed. Not bad for a guy who, until a couple of years ago, worked part-time in his mum's cafe to help pay the bills.

To call Wendell an undiscovered star would be to overplay his standing somewhat. In his homeland, as in Europe, few had heard of him at all before his nomination for the award. Fame has arrived swiftly and unexpectedly, like overnight snow.

Read my full profile of Wendell on the Mirror website.

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