Photo courtesy of Octavio Passos via Getty Images, 2022
One of the greatest hopes in football now seems like a forgotten memory for the fans. After signing for Al-Hilal from PSG during the Summer 2023, window transfer Neymar Jr suffered an ACL injury during the international break in October 2023. Since then, he was off the field recovering from his injury and nobody heard about him until a picture posted on social media made noise about the Brazilian player. It seemed like he had gained weight, which just disappointed the fans and caused criticism, as he was seen as one of the best hopes for his generation to mark soccer history. Instead, it seems like few people will not remember Neymar Jr for the player he once was, but for the player he could’ve been.
Neymar’s football career first started in Brazil where he played for Santos FC for 10 years. He first started in the juvenile categories and then got promoted to an adult team in 2009. In the next four years there, the young Brazilian player attracted attention to the point that Europe wanted him.
In 2013, after winning five trophies with his formative club, Neymar Jr crossed the Atlantic ocean and signed for the biggest European club at the time: FC Barcelona. The Brazilian was seen as a hope for the Barcelona fans but even the football world itself. He got to play alongside Messi and Suarez to form one of the greatest forwards trio in football history: the MSN. During three seasons and 113 games played alongside each other, the MSN scored an overall of 253 goals, won La Liga twice, three Copa Del Rey, one Champions League and the Club World Cup. Alongside both of his world class teammates, Neymar scored 105 goals for 186 games at FC Barcelona. But the Brazilian forward had a desire for more personal recognition, as Messi won the Ballon d’Or twice (2013, 2016) when they were playing together.
Despite the possibility of being great in Barcelona, Neymar wanted to be the best, even if that meant that he had to leave the club and his teammates who he called friends. That’s why, in 2017, he underwent the most expensive transfer of all football history by joining PSG, for 222 million euros. This transfer shocked the football world as no one would have ever imagined Neymar leaving the place that got the best of his talent. But PSG offered a project surrounding Neymar, one where he wouldn’t be behind Lionel Messi.
Unfortunately, when this new path of his career began, the Brazilian’s downfall started. Neymar started to get a lot of injuries which took him off the field for over a 100 games between 2017 and 2023. Despite him being decisive when he would play, he didn’t become the leader needed for him to support the project surrounding him. In 2021, Neymar was joined in PSG by his old teammate Lionel Messi. For the next two years until 2023, both kept saying that they were not happy in Paris and decided to leave in the summer 2023. After 7 years in PSG, Neymar never won the Champions League and scored 118 goals for 173 games. He left as a disappointment for the PSG fans, as they were hoping to see their club win the Champions League for the first time in history. On the individual side, Neymar never won the Ballon d’Or and didn’t even come close during his time in Paris.
It is only at 31 years old that Neymar joined the Saudi Arabia club Al Hillal, disappointing all the football fans who always hoped to see him back in his prime. People believe that, at 31 years old, Neymar is really young to be going to a so-called “retirement” league. With his ACL injury, one can assume that one of the greatest hopes and talents of football has now ended his career with none of the accomplishments expected. Neymar will certainly be remembered for the career he could’ve had.
Sophomore Agathe Vanmassenhove is the Sports Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.