Born on February 5, 1992, in São Paulo, Brazil, Neymar drew attention for his impressive soccer abilities at an early age. He emerged as a star for Santos FC as a teenager, winning four straight Player of the Year awards while becoming one of Brazil's most popular public figures. In May 2013, the gifted youngster announced his move to Europe to play for Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona.
Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. was born on February 5, 1992, in Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo, Brazil. The son of a former professional soccer player, Neymar followed in his father's footsteps by playing street games and futsal, an indoor version of the game. He joined the Portuguesa Santista youth club in 1999, and within a few years was one of the most highly regarded young talents in the country.
Neymar joined the youth system of Santos FC at age 11. News of his abilities spread to Europe, and he was offered the chance to continue his development with Real Madrid C.F. at age 14, but the Santos team's management reportedly convinced Neymar to stay put with a large bonus.
Neymar made his senior debut for Santos in 2009 and lived up to the hype by earning the league's Best Young Player award. He emerged as a full-blown star in 2010, helping Santos claim the league and Copa do Brasil championships en route to the first of three straight scoring titles and four straight Player of the Year awards. That season he also made his debut for the senior national team and debuted a Mohawk-style haircut, which quickly became popular among younger fans.
In 2011, the flashy forward produced what would be voted the FIFA Goal of the Year and led Santos to its first Copa Libertadores championship in 48 years. However, he also began to experience the backlash that accompanies fame. Neymar was criticized for his play during Brazil's quarterfinals loss in the 2011 Copa America tournament, and was scolded in the media for fathering a child out of wedlock.
Neymar scored his 100th professional goal on his 20th birthday in 2012 and finished the year with a career-best total of 43. Although Santos won its third straight league title, the young star again was subject to criticism when Brazil lost the 2012 Summer Olympics gold-medal game to an underdog Mexico team.
In May 2013, Neymar announced he was making the leap to Europe with a transfer to FC Barcelona, a powerful club that featured superstar Argentine striker Lionel Messi and several members of the Spanish national team.
Soon afterward, the wunderkind silenced a share of his critics by leading Brazil to victory in the 2013 Confederations Cup, indicating his readiness to shoulder bigger expectations on the world stage.