In light of the fellow star players joining the league, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Neymar declared, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saudi league is better than the French.” His transfer to Al Hilal drew comparisons to former Brazil international Rivellino's move to the club in 1978. On 15 September, he made his debut in a 6–1 thrashing of Al-Riyadh, coming off the bench and providing an assist to a goal by Malcom. On 3 October, Neymar scored his first goal for the club in a 3–0 away win against Nassaji Mazandaran in an AFC Champions League group stage match. Having played five games for his new club, Neymar ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while on international duty in October 2023.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (born 5 February 1992), known as Neymar Júnior or mononymously as Neymar, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal and the Brazil national team. A prolific goalscorer and playmaker renowned for his flamboyant style of play, he is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and the best Brazilian player of his generation. Neymar has scored at least 100 goals for three different clubs, making him one of the few players to achieve this feat.
In 2003, Neymar moved with his family to São Vicente, where he began playing for youth side Portuguesa Santista. Then, later in 2003, they moved to Santos, where Neymar joined Santos. With the success of his youth career and added income, the family bought their first property, a house next to Vila Belmiro, Santos' home stadium. Their quality of family life improved, as at age 15, Neymar was earning 10,000 reais per month and at 16, 125,000 reais per month. At 17, he signed his first full professional contract, was upgraded to the Santos first team, and began signing his first sponsorship deals.
Neymar began playing football at an early age and he was soon spotted by Santos who offered him a contract in 2003, where he was inducted into their youth academy, which has, in the past, produced Brazilian internationals like Coutinho, Clodoaldo, Diego, Elano and Alex. He also joined the likes of Pepe, Pelé and Robinho in starting out his career at the club, nicknamed Peixe. While in the youth academy, Neymar met Paulo Henrique Ganso, becoming good friends in the process. Aged 14, Neymar travelled to Spain for try outs with the Real Madrid youth team. He did not stay in Madrid, however, as his father decided at the time that he preferred the young prodigy to keep growing up while playing at Santos.
On 6 June, Neymar scored the third goal for Barça in the 3–1 Champions League Final defeat of Italian champions Juventus at Berlin's Olympiastadion, ensuring the club won its fifth European Cup. This made Barcelona the first club in history to twice win the treble of domestic league, domestic cup and European Cup. On a personal note, he became the eighth player in football's history to win both the Copa Libertadores and the UEFA Champions League, and the first player to score in final victories in both competitions. Neymar ended the season with 39 goals in all competitions and 10 in the Champions League, making him joint highest scorer with Cristiano Ronaldo and teammate Lionel Messi in the latter competition. He was the first player apart from those two to top the competition's scoring list, since compatriot Kaká in 2006–07. Barcelona's attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar, dubbed "MSN", ended with 122 goals, the most in a season for an attacking trio in Spanish football history.
Neymar made his professional debut on 7 March 2009, despite being only 17 years old. He was brought on for the last thirty minutes, in a 2–1 win against Oeste. The following week he scored his first goal for Santos against Mogi Mirim. One month later, on 11 April, Neymar scored the decisive goal in a 2–1 win against Palmeiras in the 2009 Campeonato Paulista semi-final first leg. In the final, however, Santos suffered a 4–2 aggregate defeat to Corinthians. In his first season, Neymar racked up 14 goals in 48 games.
In 2010, Santos rejected a £12 million bid for him from English Premier League team West Ham United, and later an offer from another English club, Chelsea, reported to be in the region of £20 million. Despite the unwillingness of Santos to sell and Neymar himself stating: "I'm focused only on Santos", his agent, Wagner Ribeiro, indicated that Neymar's career was elsewhere, stating: "He wants to become the best player in the world. The chances of him doing that while playing in Brazil are zero." One year later Neymar said, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, that he had been happy with Chelsea's interest in him as it was a "dream" of his "to play in Europe", while also stating that at the time it had been the right decision to stay in Brazil.
Neymar continued his ascendancy in 2010, and, on 15 April, he scored five goals for Santos in an 8–1 rout of Guarani in the qualifying stages of the Brazilian Cup. Following the 2010 Campeonato Paulista in which Neymar scored 14 goals in 19 games, the club were crowned champions after a 5–5 aggregate win over Santo André in the finals. Neymar was subsequently given the award for the best player in the competition. Neymar's performances for Santos drew comparisons to other Brazilians, including Robinho and Pelé.
—South American football journalist Tim Vickery on Neymar in 2010.
On 26 July 2010, Neymar was selected for the first time in the Brazil senior team by new head coach Mano Menezes for a friendly match against the United States to be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey. On 10 August 2010 he made his debut with the national team in that game, aged 18 years old, starting the match and wearing the number 11 jersey. He scored on his debut after 28 minutes, a header coming from an André Santos cross in a 2–0 win for Brazil. On 1 March 2011, Neymar said: "Being on the Brazilian team is a privilege, There are some marvelous players and I'm very happy to be among them."
Despite his first two seasons being highly successful, having ended the 2010 season with an impressive 42 goals in 60 games, problems had been identified, namely Neymar's apparent taste for diving when tackled, rather than attempting to continue his run, and his attitude. The latter came to the forefront during a match with Atlético Goianiense, on 15 September 2010, when the Santos' manager, Dorival Júnior, appointed another player to take the penalty awarded for a foul on Neymar. His decision was based on the fact that Neymar had missed a crucial penalty during the Copa do Brasil final of that year, even if Santos went on to win. Reacting to this, Neymar turned his back on his manager, had to be calmed down by a linesman and argued with his captain, Edu Dracena. The fallout from this event was that Dorival Júnior wished to have Neymar suspended for two weeks, but the board sided with the player and promptly sacked the manager. Despite Neymar's apologies over the incident, some doubts still remain about his attitude. In December 2010, aged just 18, Neymar came third for the 2010 South American Footballer of the Year, behind Andrés D'Alessandro and Juan Sebastián Verón.
On 30 November 2010, Santos sold a 5% share of future transfer fees that he would receive to an investment group, Terceira Estrela Investimentos S.A. (TEISA), for R$ 3,549,900 (€1.5 million). The previous year, his family had sold a 40% stake in Neymar's sporting rights to the DIS Esporte group who had been a long-term strategic partner of Santos' football club.
In collaboration with DAZN, in 2019 Neymar appeared in The Making Of series, documentaries which relives the significant games that helped define football's greatest modern icons, with Neymar recounting his performance for Santos against Flamengo in 2011 when he scored that year's FIFA Puskás Award for Goal of the Year, and also the film Neymar and the Line of King which covers Neymar's journey in becoming one of Brazil's top players.
Neymar came into prominence at Santos, where he made his professional debut aged 17. Soon becoming the Brazilian league's star player, he won the 2011 Copa Libertadores with Santos, being their first since 1963. He was named the South American Footballer of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and relocated to Europe to join Barcelona in 2013. In his second season, as part of Barcelona's attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, dubbed MSN, he won the continental treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League. Motivated to be the focal player at club level, Neymar unexpectedly left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2017 in a €222 million transfer, which made him the most expensive player ever. In Paris, Neymar was voted Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his debut season, was integral to PSG reaching its first ever Champions League final in 2019–20, and became the highest scoring Brazilian player in Champions League history. Injuries riddled Neymar's playing time in PSG and in 2023, after six seasons and five Ligue 1 title wins, he signed for Al Hilal in a lucrative deal.
Neymar has signed many sponsorship deals since his reputation began to grow from the age of 17. In March 2011, he signed an 11-year contract with American sportswear company Nike, which ended in August 2020 after a Nike employee made a sexual assault complaint against him. Neymar has since signed with German sportswear company Puma. Still in March 2011, Panasonic paid US$2.4 million to secure Neymar's services for two years. Prior to signing for Barcelona, France Football had ranked Neymar 13th in its list of the world's richest players in 2012, with total earnings of $18.8 million for the previous 12 months. He has also signed other sponsorships from Volkswagen, Tenys Pé Baruel, Lupo, Ambev, Claro, Unilever and Santander.
On 27 March 2011, he scored twice in a 2–0 win against Scotland at the Emirates Stadium. During the match against Scotland, a banana was thrown onto the pitch after he scored from the penalty spot, which led Neymar to complain about 'constant jeering and an atmosphere of racism', implying that Scottish fans exhibited racism. While Scottish officials explained that Neymar had been booed solely for perceived injury-feigning, a German student who was in the stadium amongst Brazil supporters said that he threw the banana with no racist intentions. This led to the Scottish Football Association asking the Brazilian Football Confederation for an apology for the accusations made to the Scottish fans. Neymar refused to apologise or retract his words, claiming he "did not accuse any person or any group of supporters".
In September 2011, Santos club president Luís Ribeiro threatened to report Real Madrid to FIFA following reports that they had attempted to sign Neymar to a pre-contract agreement, and denied that such an agreement was in place. On 9 November, Neymar and Santos agreed to a contract extension that would see the player stay with the club until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The deal reportedly increased Neymar's wages by 50%, to the levels that top European clubs would be paying him. On 14 December, Neymar scored the opening goal for Santos as they defeated Kashiwa Reysol 3–1 in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup at the Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Japan, but failed to score against Barcelona in the final on 18 December, where Santos were defeated 4–0, finishing as runners-up in the competition. He won the 2011 FIFA Puskás Award for scoring a solo goal in the Brasileirão Série A against Flamengo, in a 5–4 loss. On 31 December, he won the 2011 South American Footballer of the Year award for the first time, by a record margin, following in the footsteps of Diego Maradona, Romário, Pelé and Zico.
Neymar finished third for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2015 and 2017, has been awarded the FIFA Puskás Award, has been named in the FIFA FIFPro World11 and the UEFA Team of the Year twice, and the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season three times. Off the pitch, he ranks among the world's most prominent sportsmen. SportsPro named him the most marketable athlete in the world in 2012 and 2013, and ESPN cited him as the world's fourth-most-famous athlete in 2016. In 2017, Time included him in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2018, France Football ranked Neymar the world's third-highest-paid footballer. The following year, Forbes ranked him the world's third-highest-paid athlete, dropping a spot to fourth in 2020.
Neymar has become an icon in promoting Brazilian modern pop music, particularly Música sertaneja. The video in which Neymar dances in the Santos locker room dancing in front of teammates carrying his recorder making the round of the players and making them react to the tune of Michel Teló's hit "Ai se eu te pego!" went viral. He made a point of performing his dance antics to the song after scoring goals in football games and appeared live with Teló in one of the latter's concerts. He also supported sertanejo singer Gusttavo Lima performing live with Lima on renditions of the singer's hits "Balada" and "Fazer Beber". In 2012, he made cameo appearances in the music video for yet another sertanejo hit "Eu Quero Tchu, Eu Quero Tcha" by João Lucas & Marcelo. In 2013, Neymar appeared on a rap music video, "País do Futebol" by MC Guimê.
On 5 February 2012, when he turned 20, Neymar scored his 100th goal as a professional football player, against Palmeiras in the Campeonato Paulista. On 25 February – he scored two goals, one of which was from 25-yards – and created two assists to help his side to a 6–1 win over Ponte Preta. On 7 March, Neymar netted a hat-trick as Santos saw off Brazilian rivals Internacional 3–1 in the Copa Libertadores Group stage match. On 29 March, he scored a brace against Guaratinguetá in a 5–0 victory. In the fixture against São Paulo on 29 April 2012, Neymar scored a hat-trick with the match ending 3–1. Thereafter, he went on to score twice in the first and second legs in the 2012 Campeonato Paulista Finals against Guarani, which ended 7–2 on aggregate. Neymar finished the 2012 Campeonato Paulista with 20 goals and was voted the Best player and Best Forward, and Santos were crowned champions. He was joint top scorer in the Copa Libertadores with eight goals, after Santos were beaten over two legs by eventual champions Corinthians in the semi-finals.
On 11 May 2012, Neymar was selected for the squad of the Brazil Olympic football team to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games. In Brazil's first warm-up match on 20 July 2012, against the host nation Great Britain at Riverside Stadium, Neymar was involved in both goals of a 2–0 win, first making an assist with a free-kick into the six-yard box for Sandro's header, before converting a penalty. On 26 July, he scored his first goal in Brazil's opening fixture against Egypt, which ended a 3–2 victory for Brazil. In the following match against Belarus at Old Trafford in Manchester, Neymar scored a free-kick from 25-yards into the top-right corner of the goal and set up goals for Alexandre Pato's header with a cross from the right and Oscar with a back heel as Brazil secured their place in the quarter-finals with a 3–1 win. Afterwards he said: "I scored and made two assists so for me it was perfect".
On 25 August 2012, he scored a brace in the 2–1 away win at Palmeiras. On 3 November, in the Brasileiro Série A away fixture at Cruzeiro, Neymar scored a hat-trick and assisted Felipe Anderson's goal, to help his side to a 4–0 win. Neymar finished off the 2012 season in style, first setting-up Victor Andrade's equaliser, then scoring twice, to give Santos a 3–1 home win over Palmeiras on 1 December. Neymar was voted the Best Player of the 2012 Recopa Sudamericana, with himself scoring in the second leg to win the title 2–0 on aggregate. He finished the 2012 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A with 14 goals and being voted the Best forward. Neymar finished the 2012 season, being award the Golden Ball, Arthur Friedenreich Award and Armando Nogueira Trophy. He was one of three finalists in the 2012 FIFA Puskás Award and finished runners-up behind Miroslav Stoch. He won the 2012 South American Footballer of the Year, retaining his award and winning it ahead of the likes of Ronaldinho.
On 5 August 2012, in the quarter-final encounter against Honduras, Neymar scored a penalty, his third goal of the tournament and assisted in Leandro Damião's second goal on the match, to help Brazil to a 3–2 victory at St James' Park and book a place in the semi-finals. On 11 August, Brazil lost 2–1 to Mexico in the final at Wembley Stadium in London.
Neymar scored his first full international hat-trick on 10 September 2012, in an 8–0 win over China at the Estádio José do Rego Maciel in Recife. On 19 September, Neymar scored the winner against Argentina in a 2–1 win in the first leg of the 2012 Superclásico de las Américas at the Estádio Serra Dourada in Goiânia, Brazil.
On 8 May 2013, Neymar was rated by SportsPro magazine as the most marketable athlete in the world, ahead of Lionel Messi (2nd) and Cristiano Ronaldo (8th). The same month, Neymar launched the Nike Hypervenom football boot. In November 2012 advertising agency Loducca, created Neymar's own personal brand logo, featuring the N, J and R (Neymar Junior) with the N styled to match Neymar's shirt number 11. Neymar starred in a 2014 advert for Beats with other global football stars including Thierry Henry and Luis Suárez, with the theme of 'The Game Before The Game' and the players pre-game ritual of listening to music.
Considered to be a highly promising player in his youth, Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho had also tipped Neymar on becoming the best player in the world, stating in 2013: "Neymar is young though, and I can't explain how special he will become. In the next two or three seasons he will become the best player." Another Brazilian star, retired World Cup winner Ronaldo also believed that Neymar could become the best in the world, commenting: "Logically, Messi is better right now but Neymar is a great talent who will show the world that he will be number one". Former Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano has also praised Neymar, stating: "I like Neymar a lot. Many of his individual actions result in a goal and often it's a move that only seems to be happening with him on the pitch." After joining Barcelona, Neymar consequently established himself as one of the best players in world football, generally being considered the third-best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo. In the years since, Neymar is also widely reputed as the best Brazilian player of his generation.
On 28 November, Neymar suffered an ankle injury in a 3–1 win over Saint-Étienne. He was taken off on a stretcher at the 85th minute of the match. His return from injury came on 15 February 2022 in a Champions League match against Real Madrid, where he came on as a substitute and assisted Mbappé's injury-time goal to win the match 1–0. Four days later, he made his return to league play and his first start in 2022 in a match against Nantes; he scored a goal and missed a penalty in a 3–1 loss at the Stade de la Beaujoire. On 13 March, following their Champions League elimination against Real Madrid in the round of 16, Neymar and his team-mate Messi were booed by some of the PSG fans at the Parc des Princes in the league match against Bordeaux. On 21 May, he scored his 100th goal with PSG in a 5–0 win over Metz. Neymar helped PSG win their record-tying 10th national championship, finishing the season with 13 goals and 8 assists across all competitions, registering the fewest goals scored since arriving in Europe in 2013, in a season marked by various injuries and collective irregularity.
Neymar started the 2013 Campeonato Paulista scoring twice in the first match, which ended a 3–1 win over São Bernardo on 19 January 2013. On 3 February, in the Paulista fixture against São Paulo, where Santos won 3–1, with Neymar scoring and making two assists. On 18 March, Neymar told that he had a "dream of playing in Europe, for a big club like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea." But he went on to say, "There's no point in speculating when I'll leave Santos. I'll leave when I want to."
The media have often drawn comparisons between Neymar and Brazilian legend Pelé, as Neymar possesses similar attributes and also like Pelé came from the Santos Youth Academy. In February 2013, he was on the cover of Time magazine with the title 'The Next Pelé'. Neymar has said that Pelé is his "role model" but also said: "I don't like to make a comparison with Pelé". He has also been compared to compatriot Ronaldinho.
Neymar appeared on the cover of Time magazine in February 2013, the first Brazilian athlete to do so. The issue included an article by Bobby Ghosh entitled "The Next Pelé" and subtitled "How the career of Brazilian football star Neymar explains his country's economy".
In April 2013, Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa released a Monica's Gang comic book featuring a younger version of Neymar (called Neymar Jr.) as the main character.
In May 2013, SportsPro magazine named Neymar as the most marketable athlete on the planet for the second consecutive year. He topped the list ahead of Lionel Messi, Rory McIlroy, Usain Bolt and Cristiano Ronaldo, among other sportspeople. The list measures the monetary value, the age, the force in domestic markets, the charisma and their market potential in the next three years. In March 2015, Neymar had the fourth highest social media rank in the world among sportspeople, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and David Beckham, with 52 million Facebook fans. He has over 200 million Instagram followers, the third highest for a sportsperson (after Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi), and inside the top 20 most followed people. In ESPN's list of active sportspeople in 2016, Neymar was ranked the fourth most famous athlete in the world. In April 2017, Neymar was included in the Time 100, Time magazine's list of the most influential people in the world. In 2019, ESPN again ranked him the world's fourth most famous athlete.
On 24 May 2013, Santos announced that they had received two offers for Neymar. The following day, Neymar announced he would sign with Barcelona on 27 May and join the team after playing in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. Neither Neymar nor the clubs released details on the transfer fee or personal terms, save to say he signed a five-year deal. On 3 June, Neymar was unveiled by Barcelona after passing medical tests and signing a contract that would keep him at the club through June 2018.
On 30 July 2013, Barcelona drew 2–2 against Lechia Gdańsk in a pre-season friendly; Neymar made his unofficial debut when he came on as a substitute. He scored his first goal for the club in a 7–1 win against a Thailand XI on 7 August at the Rajamangala National Stadium. Neymar made his competitive debut for Barcelona during the opening game of the 2013–14 La Liga season as a 63rd-minute substitute for Alexis Sánchez in a 7–0 win against Levante. On 21 August, he scored his first competitive goal for the club in the first leg of the 2013 Supercopa de España against Atlético Madrid: seven minutes after coming on as a substitute for Pedro, he headed Dani Alves' cross to equalise in a 1–1 draw at the Vicente Calderón Stadium as Barcelona won on the away goals rule for his first trophy at the club. On 18 September, he made his UEFA Champions League debut, assisting a Gerard Piqué goal as Barça beat Ajax 4–0 in their opening match of the 2013–14 tournament.
In January 2014, the prosecutor's office in Madrid began investigating the transfer fee that Barcelona paid for Neymar. The documents submitted to the authorities on request contained contradictory information. On 23 January 2014, Rosell resigned from his position as president. A day later, the details of the transfer were revealed by Barcelona; the transfer had in fact cost them €86.2 million (£71.5 million), with Neymar's parents confirmed to have received a €40 million sum. In the aftermath, Barcelona and Bartomeu were charged with tax fraud.
On 5 March 2014, Neymar scored a hat-trick in a friendly win against South Africa in Johannesburg. He made headlines for his conduct after the final whistle when a South African boy ran onto the pitch. As security staff began to escort the boy from the field, Neymar intervened and introduced him to his Brazil teammates before they lifted him in the air during their celebrations.
To mark the World Cup commencing in Brazil, in June 2014, Neymar appeared with supermodel Gisele Bündchen on the front cover of Vogue's Brazilian edition. In November 2014, Neymar appeared in FIFA's "11 against Ebola" campaign with a selection of top football players from around the world, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Xavi and Didier Drogba. Under the slogan "Together, we can beat Ebola", FIFA's campaign was done in conjunction with the Confederation of African Football and health experts, with the players holding up eleven messages to raise awareness of the disease and ways to combat it.
On 13 September 2014, after appearing as a substitute, Neymar scored his first two goals of the 2014–15 season, helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 2–0. On 27 September, he scored a hat-trick against Granada in a 6–0 win and scored in his next three La Liga matches, including the opening goal in a 1–3 loss to Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
With captain Thiago Silva ruled out through injury, new coach Dunga decided to make Neymar captain and confirmed on 5 September that the forward would stay on as skipper on a permanent basis. On 14 October 2014, Neymar scored four goals in one game for the first time in his international career, scoring all of Brazil's goals in 4–0 friendly win against Japan at the National Stadium, Singapore. At the age of just 22 years, Neymar had scored 40 goals in 58 internationals, and had become the fifth highest goalscorer for his national team. On 26 March 2015, Neymar scored Brazil's second goal in a 3–1 friendly win over France in Paris.
On 24 January 2015, Neymar scored twice and assisted two more goals in a 6–0 win at Elche. On 28 January, he scored his 20th goal of the season in a 3–2 Copa del Rey quarter-final win over Atlético Madrid. On 4 March, Neymar scored twice in Barcelona's 3–1 Copa del Rey semi-final win over Villarreal to qualify the club for its 37th Spanish Cup final. On 21 April, Neymar took his tally to 30 goals for the season by scoring twice in Barcelona's 2–0 Champions League quarter-final win over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
On 14 June 2015, in Brazil's opening Copa América fixture, Neymar scored the equaliser and assisted the stoppage-time winning goal by Douglas Costa as Brazil came from 0–1 down to beat Peru 2–1 in Temuco. After Brazil's second match, a 0–1 loss to Colombia in Santiago, Neymar was booked for handball, resulting in a suspension. After the final whistle, he was red carded for deliberately kicking the ball at Pablo Armero, and as a result was pushed over by Colombian striker Carlos Bacca, who was also dismissed. CONMEBOL issued Neymar with a four-match ban, ruling him out for the remainder of the tournament, in addition to a $10,000 fine.
On 27 August 2017, Barcelona filed a lawsuit against Neymar, demanding he return the contract renewal bonus he received as well as €8.5 million in damages and an additional 10% for the arrears. They claimed they are owed money that Neymar received as part of a renewal bonus when he signed a new contract in 2016. The club also requested PSG to take on the responsibility for the payment of the fees if the player cannot do so himself. Neymar's lawyers announced that they would contest the case.
Due to having the mumps, Neymar was expected to miss the 2015 UEFA Super Cup and the 2015 Supercopa de España. On 17 October, Neymar scored four goals in Barcelona's 5–2 home win over Rayo Vallecano in La Liga, taking his total to eight goals for the season. On 21 November, Neymar scored one and provided a back heel assist for Andrés Iniesta in Barcelona's 4–0 away win against Real Madrid. He scored twice in a 4–0 home win over Real Sociedad on 28 November, taking his La Liga total to 14 goals in 12 games. On 30 November, Neymar was shortlisted for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or alongside Messi and Ronaldo, and subsequently came third. On 22 May 2016, Neymar scored a late goal in Barcelona's 2–0 extra time win over Sevilla in the 2016 Copa del Rey Final at the Vicente Calderón, as the club celebrated winning the domestic double for the second consecutive season, following their treble victory from the previous season. The front three of Messi, Suárez and Neymar finished the season with 131 goals, breaking the record they had set the previous year for most goals by an attacking trio in a single season.
The CBF had wanted Neymar to play at the Copa América Centenario and the Olympics in Rio during the summer of 2016, but after a request from Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, he was rested from the first tournament. In late June 2016, he was subsequently one of the three over-23 players to be included in Brazil's squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics on home soil, and was named the team's captain by the Olympic side's manager Rogério Micale.
Despite being PSG's fourth-highest scorer and winning ten trophies, including five Ligue 1 titles, Neymar's tenure at PSG was marred by injuries and unfulfilled expectations, most notably not helping PSG win a Champions League . He missed 119 matches for PSG in total as a result of being injured around 20 times across his six-year spell, showing a fragility that was not seen either at Barcelona or Santos. James Westwood of Goal wrote that Neymar wasted the best years of his career and that in 2017 he had "the world at his feet" playing for Barcelona, throwing away his chance to join Pelé and Messi as a "true legend of the game" by joining PSG. Regardless, Neymar has been credited as a legend of PSG, trailing only Ibrahimović, Cavani and Mbappé in the club's top scorers.
In Barcelona's 6–1 victory over PSG in the Champions League round of 16, Neymar had a miraculous and heroic role in Barcelona's comeback, by scoring two goals and assisted the decisive goal of Sergi Roberto during the closing seven-minute sequence, of which he was named man of the match, based on his efforts. Overcoming the 4–0 loss to PSG in the first leg from 14 February 2017, this second leg match became the biggest comeback in Champions League history.
— Neymar after the 4–0 loss against PSGon 15 February 2017
According to former Barcelona teammate Xavi, Neymar informed his teammates of his desire to leave Barcelona at Messi's wedding in June 2017. By July 2017, media speculation emerged that Neymar wanted to join PSG, with the club holding talks with Barcelona officials. At 25-years old, Neymar was motivated to leave Barcelona to step out of Messi's shadow and be the sole star player, increasing the likelihood of him winning the Ballon d'Or. Barcelona president, Bartomeu, admitted he was powerless to stop him from wanting to leave: “Neymar is one of our best players and so we don’t want to lose that player,” he said. “We want him to continue with us. He still has four years of his contract so there is nothing else to say [...] You know that players decide if they want to leave, they can decide." On 2 August 2017, Neymar asked Barcelona to allow him to leave.
Neymar made his debut for Les Rouge-et-Bleu on 13 August 2017, scoring a goal and assisting another in a 3–0 away victory over Guingamp. Highlighting the hype around Neymar's arrival in Paris, the match was broadcast in 183 countries. After the match, Neymar said, "People think that leaving Barca is to die, but it's the opposite [...] I'm more alive than ever."
On 3 August 2017, Barcelona announced that Neymar's legal representatives made a payment of €222 million to the club, equal to the release clause of his contract, which constituted the most expensive transfer ever. The club informed UEFA so that they can determine any disciplinary responsibilities that may arise from this case. According to the BBC, in Spain, the release clause must be activated by the footballer himself. The situation was unusual, in that the fee was paid to the club directly, after La Liga had refused to receive the payment. Usually, the buyout clause is deposited with La Liga in order to release the player from his contract, and the league then passes the money to the selling club. However, La Liga rejected the payment—citing violation of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by PSG, who are backed by money from Gulf state Qatar.
However, Neymar also has been known and criticised for his excessive diving when tackled by another player for which Pelé has said, "[h]e is a player with a body that can't take a lot of hits. [...] A lot of times he will fall because he can't do anything else, but he was overdoing it." He continued: "Even when he is fouled, he can't make a spectacle out of it". During the 2018 World Cup, Neymar's antics inspired on social media the Neymar Challenge for dramatic dives. As the star player for Brazil (and PSG) he is often the most targeted player on the field; he was the most fouled player in Europe's top leagues in 2018. A divisive figure in the sport, he has been accused of exaggerating injury, with Eric Cantona stating Neymar is a "great actor", comparing him to a wheeled suitcase: "you barely touch it, and it turns round and round for hours." In response to the criticism over his petulance and histrionics, Neymar starred in a post 2018 World Cup commercial where he admitted to not being able to deal with his frustrations which contributed to theatrics while on the pitch and promised to change for the better.
In 2018, France Football ranked Neymar the third-highest-paid footballer in the world, earning €81.5m ($95m) for a calendar year in combined income from salaries, bonuses and endorsements deals. In 2019, Forbes ranked Neymar the world's third-highest-paid athlete (after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) with earnings of $105 million for the calendar year.
Neymar was also often criticized for his lack of professional discipline, with his desire to party and play late-night poker games illustrating what may have been his lack of commitment to PSG. In 2018, Pelé criticised Neymar: "It's difficult to defend Neymar for all the things he does besides playing football. I've been with him in Europe twice. We talked and I explained: ‘The God of football gave you the gift. What you do complicates it'." In February 2023, the day after PSG lost to Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, images of Neymar in a fast-food restaurant at the end of the night surfaced on social media. Neymar defended himself, saying "It's my life, I do what I want."
During a 3–0 defeat of rivals Marseille on 25 February 2018, Neymar fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. He travelled to Belo Horizonte and underwent a successful operation on his foot. Despite failing to make another appearance for PSG while recovering from the injury, Neymar consequently ended his first season in Paris with 28 goals in 30 matches, including 6 goals in 7 Champions League matches. A testament to the success of his debut season, Neymar was awarded the Ligue 1 Player of the Year.
In May 2018, Neymar was named in Tite's final 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. On 3 June 2018, he made his international comeback after a three-month absence from a foot injury and scored a goal in a 2–0 win over Croatia in a friendly match at Anfield. The following week, he became Brazil's joint-third highest goalscorer alongside Romário when he scored his 55th international goal in a 3–0 friendly win over Austria. In Brazil's second World Cup match, played against Costa Rica at the Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, on 22 June, Neymar scored the team's second goal in injury time as Brazil won 2–0. The goal, his 56th for Brazil, took him third in the all-time scoring chart behind only Pelé and Ronaldo.
On 12 August 2018, Neymar scored PSG's opening league goal of the 2018–19 season in a 3–0 win over Caen at Parc des Princes. Neymar scored from a penalty in his next game as PSG won 3–1 against Guingamp in Ligue 1. In the following league game, the front three of Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani all scored in a 3–1 win over Angers at home, with Neymar scoring from Mbappé's cut back and setting up Cavani to score the opener.
On 3 October, Neymar scored a hattrick in a 6–1 win over Red Star Belgrade in a Champions League group stage fixture. He suffered a foot injury in late January 2019 that kept him out of his side's Champions League round of 16 tie against Manchester United. After United eliminated PSG, Neymar went on Instagram insulting video review officials for awarding a stoppage-time penalty to United; UEFA banned Neymar for three matches for the insult.
In May 2019, Neymar was included in Brazil's 23-man squad for the 2019 Copa América on home soil. On 5 June, however, he suffered an ankle injury in a 2–0 friendly win over Qatar and was ruled out of the tournament, with Neymar expected to miss four weeks due to the injury.
In July 2019, Neymar was absent from training with PSG, with the club talking disciplinary action. Neymar wanted to leave PSG as he felt referees never protected him, there was jealousy towards him from some dressing room team-mates, fans did not appreciate his talent showcased in PSG and sections of the French media were against him.
In July 2019, police announced that a rape investigation against Neymar would be dropped due to insufficient evidence. On 2 September 2020, it was reported that Neymar, along with PSG teammates Ángel Di María and Leandro Paredes, tested positive for COVID-19. The French sports newspaper L'Équipe said that the three players reportedly went on vacation in Ibiza. As a result, they were quarantined for one week, and the rest of the players and working staff were scheduled to take a coronavirus test within the same week.
According to Sky Sports News, Neymar was prepared to pay €20m of his own money to PSG in five instalments to facilitate a move to Barcelona. On August 27, 2019, both clubs met to discuss Neymar's situation, but according to PSG sporting director Leonardo, Barcelona's only written offer came during the meeting, which was not enough and PSG refused. Three days later, on August 30, an offer was made in writing from Neymar to PSG general manager Jean-Claude Blanc. Neymar's offer was dismissed by PSG because of French football federation regulations, and he ultimately agreed to stay at PSG after the talks to return to Barcelona broke down. Sky Sports News also reported that Real Madrid were interested in signing Neymar throughout the transfer window.
On 10 October 2019, Neymar played his 100th match for Brazil in a friendly draw 1–1 with Senegal in Singapore. On 13 October 2020, he scored a hat-trick in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Peru, which Brazil won 4–2. He reached his 64th international goal and surpassed Ronaldo as the nation's second highest goalscorer of all time.
At PSG, Neymar was also expected to lead them to their first ever Champions League title; the club lost to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final. During his six-year tenure at the club, he struggled with frequent injuries which hindered his playing time and his explosiveness. The injuries may have contributed to him not achieving more in his prime years, as he cumulatively missed 119 matches and played over 30 matches in all competitions just once in Paris (31 in 2020-21). In 2023, Spanish publication Marca wrote that "Neymar's star is dimming due to a seemingly endless string of injuries".
—Forbes on some of the traits associated with Neymar following a Champions League game for PSG against Borussia Dortmund, February 2020.
Neymar won his third league title after PSG were awarded Ligue 1 as the season finished early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his first 50 matches in Ligue 1, Neymar scored 46 goals, being the first player to do so since Marseille's Gunnar Andersson in the early 1950s. On 24 July 2020, in PSG's first professional game back after the pandemic, Neymar scored his side's lone goal in a 1–0 win over Saint-Étienne in the Coupe de France Final, winning his second Coupe de France title with the club. On 31 July, PSG won the 2020 Coupe de la Ligue Final 6–5 on penalties over Lyon, following a 0–0 draw after extra time, which saw the side complete a domestic treble, with Neymar netting one of the penalties in the shoot-out.
On 28 November, Neymar scored his 50th goal in Ligue 1, converting a penalty in PSG's 2–2 draw against Bordeaux. This made him the fastest player in the club's history to reach this, doing so in only 58 matches. Four days later, on 2 December, he scored two goals in a 3–1 Champions League victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. In PSG's final group match, Neymar scored his third career Champions League hat-trick against İstanbul Başakşehir, as his side won 5–1 and qualified for the knockout stage as group winners. He became the first player in European Cup and Champions League history to score 20 goals for two different clubs, scoring 21 goals for Barcelona in 40 games, and 20 for PSG in 25 games. In a 1–0 loss to Lyon on 13 December, Neymar suffered an ankle injury after a tackle from Thiago Mendes, and had to be stretchered off the field. He avoided a fracture, but was ruled out of action for three weeks with a sprain. His return proved to be exactly one month after his injury, on 13 January 2021, in a 2–1 win over rivals Marseille in the Trophée des Champions, with Neymar scoring the winning goal from a penalty. He sustained a left adductor injury in a 1–0 cup win over Caen on 10 February, ruling him out for four weeks. On 21 March, he was back in action, coming on as a substitute in a 4–2 league win against Lyon.
On 13 June 2021, in Brazil's opening group match of the 2021 Copa América, which took place on home soil, Neymar scored his team's second goal from the penalty spot and later assisted another for Gabriel Barbosa in a 3–0 win over Venezuela. In the following match on 17 June, he once again scored the second goal in an eventual 4–0 win over Peru. On 23 June he assisted Casemiro's match–winning goal from a corner in injury time of a 2–1 win over Colombia. On 2 July, he assisted Lucas Paquetá's goal in a 1–0 win over Chile in the quarter-finals of the competition. Three days later, he once again assisted Paquetá for the only goal of the match in the semi-finals against Peru. On 10 July, Brazil were defeated 1–0 by Argentina in the final. Despite the loss, Neymar was named the player of the tournament alongside Argentina's Messi for his performances throughout the competition.
On 10 August 2021, Neymar's former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi signed for PSG. On 29 August, Neymar made his first appearance of the season, being a starter in a 2–0 win over Reims. Messi replaced Neymar at 66th minute of the match, making his debut for the French club. Neymar scored his first goal of the 2021–22 season on 19 September, converting a penalty in a 2–1 win over Lyon. He scored his 400th career goal on 6 November against Bordeaux, where he scored a brace and helped the team to win the match 3–2.
On 9 September 2021, Neymar scored the second goal in a 2–0 win over Peru and became Brazil's all-time top scorer in FIFA World Cup qualification matches, with 12 in total.
After registering 13 goal contributions in his first five league games, Neymar was named Ligue 1's Player of the Month in August. By early October 2022, Neymar was considered one of the stand-out players in Europe and back to his best form, having scored 11 goals and providing 9 assists in just 13 games. Manager Christophe Galtier praised Neymar for playing his best ever football in PSG. Neymar's form in the first half of the season led him to be touted to win the 2023 Ballon d'Or, alongside the likes of Erling Haaland and Mbappé.
On 7 November 2022, Neymar was named in the Brazil squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He played 79 minutes of Brazil's first match on 24 November, a 2–0 win against Serbia, but was unable to play the next two group games due to ankle ligament damage. Neymar recovered from his injury to play against South Korea in the last 16 on 5 December, where he assisted Vinícius Júnior's opening goal and scored a penalty in a 4–1 win for Brazil; as a result, he became only the third Brazilian player ever, after Pelé and Ronaldo, to score in three different World Cups. Four days later, in the quarter-final match against Croatia, Neymar scored his 77th international goal and equalled Pelé's official goal tally for the national team, a goal which journalist Michael Cox described as one of the "greatest individual goals in football history". Brazil, however, were defeated 4–2 in the ensuing penalty shootout following a 1–1 draw after extra time, before Neymar was able to take Brazil's final penalty.
In 2023, following his relocation from Europe to Saudi Arabia at 31-years old, various media outlets dubbed Neymar as the 'Prince who never became King'. Westwood of Goal owed Neymar's move to PSG from Barcelona as the reason for him not being regarded alongside the likes of Pelé and Messi as a "true legend of the game". RMC Sport journalist Daniel Riolo said: "Do we realise that Neymar, in terms of transfer and salary, is the biggest failure in the history of football? I can't think of a bigger failure for what he cost, it's horrible." On the contrary, Cox of The Athletic argues that Neymar deserves to be regarded as one of football's all-time greats in light of becoming Brazil's all-time topscorer. Brazil coach Fernando Diniz also declared that Neymar is one of the greatest players in history. During his 10-year tenure in Europe playing for Barcelona and PSG, Lawrence Ostlere of The Independent opinionated that Messi was the only player more superior in "every facet of the game" than Neymar.
On 6 March 2023, PSG announced that Neymar would undergo surgery in Doha and would be ruled out for the remainder of the season. This led to Neymar missing PSG's second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich, in which PSG ended up being eliminated. After reports that Messi would leave the club following the expiration of his contract, a group of PSG supporters gathered outside the club's headquarters, protesting against the club's direction and insulting various figures of the club, including Neymar. Another group of individuals went to Neymar's house, demanding him to leave the club.
On 15 August 2023, Neymar completed a transfer to Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal on a two-year contract. The transfer fee was reported to be worth €90 million, making him the most expensive purchase in the Saudi Pro League. He is also reportedly being paid €150m a year at Al Hilal, six times the amount he earned at PSG.
On 8 September 2023, Neymar scored twice for Brazil in a 5–1 win over Bolivia in their opening match for 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification. His 78th and 79th goals in his 125th appearance for Brazil, Neymar became the national team's top goalscorer ahead of Pelé. Mimicking Pelé's punch in the air goal celebration with the first of his two goals, Neymar stated after the game that he never imagined he would reach the record. On 17 October, in Brazil's 2–0 qualifying defeat to Uruguay, Neymar was taken off in tears on a stretcher at the end of the first half, following an awkward landing after a challenge. Neymar would confirm later that week that he had ruptured his ACL and meniscus completely in his left knee and would need to undergo surgery, likely ruling him out for the remainder of the 2023–24 campaign.