World Cup 2014: Neymar is Brazil's golden boy but who is the man behind the ball?

Doting father, enthusiastic dancer and fashion fan - inside the life of Neymar

Every World Cup has its golden boys and Brazilian player Neymar is this tournament’s young wunderkind.

This is the 22-year-old’s first World Cup, but it undoubtedly won’t be his last. His footballing prowess teamed with his fun-loving personality has made him one of the tournament’s most popular players – this week his name was trending above Brazil, proving that he is a powerful tour de footballing force.

So we know he’s impressive on the pitch, but what’s his personal story?

His childhood was “humble and happy”

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior was born in Sao Paulo and was named after his father who was also a footballer. He spent his childhood playing street football, flying kites, riding bikes, tag and indulging in games of hide-and-seek. His aunt and uncle play the cavaquinho (a type of guitar), so there was always music at home. Brazil's forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a penalty during a Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo Brazil's forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a penalty during a Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo

His father is his hero

Neymar grew up watching his father play football and says he’s had a big influence on the way he plays. It was his father who taught him the nuances of the game and he still offers him sporting advice today. Neymar’s flamboyant post-goal celebrations (he likes to dance and do handstands) were also inherited. “A little while ago we watched a video of a match in which [dad] scored a goal with his head and in the celebration he looks like a madman, doing a handstand and ending up dancing,” Neymar told Highsnobiety. “I think my inspiration when I celebrate comes from him.”

He always looks on the bright side

Neymar is about as far from a sporting bad boy as you can imagine. “Since I was little, I have always been very cheerful and playful with everyone,” he said. “I like to enjoy myself!”

He’s big into fashion…

He starred on the cover of Brazilian Vogue with his country’s most famous and successful supermodel, Gisele, photographed by Mario Testino. He models underwear for Brazilian label Lupo, and isn’t shy to bare his muscles on a regular basis.

…but not he’s not as groomed as Ronaldo

His Mohawk haircut has been widely copied across Brazil (and it surely takes a while to style every morning), but Neymar insists he isn’t “excessive” when it comes to grooming. “You have to look after yourself, use cologne, moisturiser – particularly in Barcelona where it can be cold – but without being over the top about it,” he said.

In fact he thinks he’s better-looking than Ronaldo

“Cristiano Ronaldo might have style, but I'm the handsome one,” he famously joked once.

His girlfriend is a Brazilian model

Her name is Gabriella Lenzi, and she’s been spotted in the stands during the tournament. She’s a swimmer, a gymnast and is also signed to David Foster Talent Agency. Lenzi is a big fan of selfies and is followed by over 40,000 on Instagram.

He’s quite a mover and a YouTube phenomenon

Footballing aptitude aside, Neymar is worth watching for his post-goal Samba dancing. The 22-year-old is quite the mover; his 2011 video in which he danced in front of his teammates in the Santos locker room to the tune of Michel Teló's hit “Ai se eu te pego!” went viral and in 2013 he featured in a rap music video for MC Guime, entitled “Pais do Futebol”.
 

He’s a One Direction fan

He met Niall Horan and was delighted to share a selfie of himself with the boyband member on his Instagram page, with the caption: "Honour to meet you. I'm a fan and I admire the whole group."

He’s a Christian

Neymar prays before every match and has previously said that, “Life only makes sense when our highest ideal is to serve Christ!”

He’s a father of one

His former girlfriend Carolina Dantas gave birth to his son in August 2011, when Neymar was 19. “I cried when I learned that I would be his father,” he said. “At first, I felt fear. Then joy. It is a new responsibility and I am now enjoying it.”

He shares his birthday with a trio of footballing pros

His birthday on 5 February is also shared with Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Paulo Maldini. Imagine the party.

He is apparently the world’s most marketable player

In May 2013, SportsPro magazine named Neymar as the most marketable athlete on the planet for the second consecutive year, measured by monetary value, age, force in domestic markets,  charisma and market potential in the next three years.

Read more: The latest World Cup 2014 updates
Neymar tears up as he plays Mexico
Is Neymar as good as Pele?
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Guru Careers: HR Administrator / Training Coordinator

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: An HR Administrator / Training Coordinator is requi...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash