Opinion: Neymar’s Dad Changed Course of Son’s Career by Rejecting Real Madrid in 2005

Opinion: Neymar’s Dad Changed Course of Son’s Career by Rejecting Real Madrid in 2005

Rene Otinga
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior logo
Al-Hilal Saudi FC logoFBrazil logo
  • Neymar jr nearly signed for Real Madrid when he was only 13
  • His parent club at the time, Santos, convinced Neymar Snr to allow his son to stay in Brazil
  • Some fans believe this could be the reason Neymar failed to reach his full potential

Arguably no football player in modern history comes close to as many “What ifs” as Neymar Jr.

The Brazilian, 31, is without a doubt one of the most naturally gifted football players of all time, but it is a shame he did not live up to his full potential.

This is not to say Neymar has not had a stellar career, however, as the Brazilian international boasts several prestigious titles under his belt, and formed part of the most formidable front three in football history.

Neymar and Neymar Snr
Neymar gestures next to his father, Neymar Senior, during a five-a-side match, as part of a Neymar Junior Institute project, in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 9, 2016. Photo: MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL
Source: Getty Images

However, ardent fans of the superstar can’t help but often ask themselves what went wrong for Neymar; and what could have been done right in the early stages to alter the course of his career.

For some, they believe it is all down to the crucial decision to snub interest from Real Madrid when Neymar was just 13.

Neymar Snr and Real Madrid interest

Like many Brazilians, Neymar showed potential from a very young age.

His father, Neymar Snr, who played lower league football professionally before injuries forced him into retirement, took notice of the young Brazilian’s talent and was keen on nurturing it to the fullest and ended up becoming his son’s agent.

What came with that was that Neymar Snr was practically controlling every aspect of his son’s professional and commercial life, and part of his strategy was to see the promising youngster join FC Santos, aged 17.

As reported by Marca, four years prior, Neymar Jnr had the chance to sign for the Real Madrid academy, something that would have seen him train in close proximity to some of Brazil’s finest including Ronaldo Nazario, Julio Baptista, Robinho and Cicinho.

A 13-year-old Neymar even went to the Bernabeu aged 13 to weigh his options, and he formed part of the youth team’s plans with Dani Carvajal, Pablo Sarabia and other promising academy stars.

Santos’ intervention

However, despite being on the verge of becoming a Real Madrid ‘student’ Neymar’s dad saw it best to continue developing in his native Brazil.

Reports suggest Neymar Snr was put under pressure by Santos to have his son play for the Brazilian giants.

Santos ended up giving a 13-year old Neymar his first-ever professional contract, with the young Brazilian’s family being compensated heavily financially. They also received an apartment near the club’s training ground.

Neymar Snr on why he turned down Real Madrid

In the Netflix documentary about Neymar’s life and career, the Brazilian’s father explained why he turned down Real Madrid at the time.

“I saw an opportunity that could benefit my family,” he said, as quoted by Football Espana.
“And my son. It was the first million my family earned. Neymar was 14 years old.”

Of course, Neymar went on to become a superstar at Santos, winning the Campeonato Paulista three times with them as well as the Copa Libertadores before eventually joining Barcelona in 2013.

While it is obvious poverty was a contributing factor to Neymar’s father’s decision to see his son return to Brazil at the expense of a potential career as a Galactico, one cannot help but wonder how things would have turned out if the Brazilian would have developed himself in the Spanish capital.

Perhaps, with some of the best footballing facilities in the world at his disposal, Neymar would be much less prone to injury, and would be much more consistent on the football pitch.

A fine example to back this theory is Lionel Messi, whose family took the risk of allowing him to join La Massia as a teenager. The Argentine, who had a growth deficiency disorder, was able to acess some of the best facilities in the world, and as we know, the rest is history.

Neymar currently plays for Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, but has been hit with a familiar setback as he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He however underwent successful surgery.

Neymar celebrates Messi’s 8th Ballon d’Or

Sports Brief also reported on how Neymar celebrated Lionel Messi after the Argentine scooped a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or.

The Argentina and Inter Miami star was crowned the 2023 best player at the 67th Ballon d'Or awards, beating off competition from Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and former Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Kylian Mbappe.

Both Messi and Neymar left PSG in the summer transfer window, with the ex-Barcelona winger joining Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia.

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Rene Otinga
Rene Otinga is a sports journalist with over eight years of working experience in digital media. Rene's experience includes working as a Copywriter at X News Kenya and TUKO.co.ke.