In the past few weeks Neymar has garnered a lot of attention from top European clubs such as Chelsea and Real Madrid, and on Wednesday night he showed them why he would be worth the near €40 million it would cost to sign him. The exciting young Brazilian striker opened the scoring in tight second leg of the Copa Libertadores final with a clinical first touch finish following a lovely dribbling display and pass from Arouca. A second goal was added by Danilo, who unleashed a left footed strike past the outstretched arms of Penarol keeper Sebastian Sosa after some brilliant passing from another Santos wonderkid Paolo Henrique Ganso. Santos would concede an own goal from Durval, but Santos would hold out to claim victory in the Copa Libertadores for the first time since Pele’s squad had done so in 1963.
Post-match celebrations were put on hold as the affair turned ugly just shortly after the final whistle. A Santos supporter ran onto the pitch and seemed to taunt the defeated Penarol players who responded by attacking the Santos supporter and players alike. Police were called onto the field after numerous punches and kicks were exchanged by both sides. Several Santos players were down after being struck, but none were seriously injured. Penarol eventually returned to the pitch and claimed their well-earned runners up medals. Despite the ugly incident, it could not stop the exuberant Santos fans from celebrating their victory.
Shortly after the final whistle, Neymar dropped to his knees and began to sob, he was not alone as former Santos great and Brazilian legend Pele also shed a few tears after the victory. Neymar later described the victory; “It’s the happiest day of my life, I made history. We deserved this title, it’s time to celebrate.” Santos certainly deserved their victory. After a scoreless first leg, the first half saw a long range effort and a free kick from Elano turned away by Sosa. Neymar’s 47th minute goal broke the deadlock and Danilo’s effort in the 69th put the game beyond reach for Penarol.
So as we sit at the end of the Copa Libertadores campaign for Neymar and Santos and his transfer to Europe looming on the horizon, it seems as if Neymar is poised to take his place among football’s greatest players in Europe. Interest is strong from many clubs with the front runners considered to be Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, although Santos has also received inquiries from Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Manchester United to name a few. With the world’s biggest tournament returning to its most successful country, the race is on to sign one of Brazil’s most successful wonderkids.
The young striker, blessed with the blazing speed of Robinho, the trickery of Ronaldinho, and the deadly finishing of Ronaldo seems ready to be the centerpiece of the 2014 Brazilian World Cup squad, and this victory is a good start to a potential footballing legend’s legacy. Only time will tell if Neymar’s genius can be replicated on larger stages in Europe and the World Cup, but if last night’s match was any indication, Neymar will be a star to shine for years to come. Take a moment to admire some of the young man’s brilliance below.