KickOff.com explores the rise of Neymar ahead of the prolific forward's second crack at the FIFA World Cup
Posted: 11 June 2018 Time: 20:00
After an explosive return to fitness, can Neymar match the exploits of the Brazilian legends he is constantly compared to and lead the Selecao to a record sixth FIFA World Cup crown?
"You have to trust, you dream," Neymar told reporters after arriving in Russia this morning. "You can talk, you're Brazilian and you can dream; we're dreaming more and more. Dreaming is not forbidden."
From the moment Neymar turned 13, he was already tipped to become the next global superstar for Brazil tasked to lead the football-loving nation to the pinnacle of football honours.
While he missed out on the 2010 edition in South Africa after a controversial decision by the coach Dunga, the world-record transfer holder will have to step up to the fore with even more expectation on his shoulders.
After suffering a heartbreaking injury in the quarter-final against Colombia in 2014 on home soil, Neymar was a notable absentee in the 7-1 drubbing they received at the hands of eventual champions Germany.
The nation was scarred, at their lowest point and forced to rebuild once again in sight of Russia 2018.
In an iconic moment of disappointment for Neymar and the Selecao, it would take the mental strength of a truly world-class talent to step out of adversity and become the pivotal force to lead a nation forward once again.
And that, Neymar has become over the past four years, with incredible statistics at club level backing his claim as one of football's greatest performers.
A record of 146 goals and 79 assists in 183 games and 10 major titles for FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain has backed Neymar as the attacking talisman he was truly destined to be tender age of 13.
Having racked 55 goals and 36 assists in 85 senior national team games, only Ronaldo Nazário (66) and Pele (77) lay in his wake of achieving the all-time leading scorer for the five-time World Champions.
While media reports, coaches, and players opinion can mislead in many cases, these statistics don't lie.
An argument can always be brought up that individual brilliance cannot bring back the World Cup crown and debates wrangle on about Tite's current side's teamwork - it will be foolish to discredit the quality of the current 23-man squad at his disposal.
While he failed to make it all the way to the Maracana due to a serious back injury four years ago, Neymar's challenge will now be to overcome his fitness obstacles and remain on the pitch until July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Objectively, Brazil boasts one of the strongest squads at the tournament with a world-class talent that can change the game at any given moment.
So the real questions should be; can Neymar remain fit to lead the Selecao to World Cup glory?