Desperate to finally win the UEFA champions league, PSG smashed the transfer record to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017.
The $350 million price tag came with enormous expectations and Neymar endured most of the backlash each season as PSG came up short.
Since his teenage years, Neymar was touted as the heir apparent to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but his path has been stifled by periodic lapses in concentration and motivation at club level.
The same cannot be said about Neymar on the international stage, where his talent and dominance consistently make the difference from Brazil and become glaring when he is out injured.
While no one will forget the version of Brazil that meekly succumbed to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, with an injured Neymar watching on, few may remember the swagger and control that same collection of players brushed aside opponents with Neymar in their midst.
Since losing to Belgium in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, the Selecao has been on an unstoppable run, thanks in great part to the inspirational playmaker.
Brazil swept aside its opposition to win the 2019 Copa America, and is now six wins from six in World Cup qualification – a feat matched only by the World Cup-winning side of 1970, widely regarded as the greatest national team of all-time.
Neymar has been the obvious standout, with five goals and four assists in four 2022 World Cup qualifiers, capped off by Wednesday’s man-of-the-match performance in a 2-0 win over Paraguay.
Tite’s men are now six-points clear of second-placed Argentina atop the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualification table, and will be looking to reassert their dominance by securing back-to-back Copa America trophies.
By contrast, second-placed Argentina’s form has been shaky of late, with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi unable to assert Neymar’s level of influence for La Albiceleste.
Neymar is the second-highest goal scorer of all-time for Brazil, with 66 goals in 105 appearances and at 29, still has plenty of time to overtake the great Pele, who tops the list with 77.
Granted, he can dramatize a seemingly innocuous challenge, which hasn’t endeared him to the unrelenting army of keyboard commentators.
But any lingering criticism will be squashed if Neymar continues to turn in match-winning performances to lead Brazil on a run of dominance at the next few major tournaments.
For now, Brazil’s hopes of winning an unprecedented sixth World Cup in Qatar grow with every win, as Neymar glides effortlessly past defenders despite the weight of a nation attached to his diminutive frame.