This week's WSJ Magazine has an entertaining story by Jason Gay on "Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, the 22-year-old prince of Brazilian soccer." He'll be bigger than Beckham if Brazil win the forthcoming World Cup (current odds: 3-1).
Gay's story is full of good lines. My favorite is on the scale of the stage for Neymar and company: "The last World Cup final, in 2010 between Spain and the Netherlands, was watched by an estimated 700 million people, which makes the Super Bowl seem like open-mike night at a coffee shop." On Neymar's fame, Gay relays Roger Bennett's observation that Neymar's jaw-dropping skill set made him into "'a footballer for the YouTube age' ... Bennett believes that his worldwide reputation grew principally through short video clips, perfect for dissemination on social media." That's an interesting point. Here's a startling fact: Nike signed Neymar at the age of 15 (he's now 22). They were on to him early.
One thing you won't find much of in Gay's story is a discussion of Neymar's stats, but these are easily found at ESPNFC. This year he's been scoring at a rate of one goal every two games, with two assists every five, all while undergoing the transition into an established Barcelona team. His strike rate for Brazil has been a degree or two higher. Gay's story paints a picture of an athlete who won't shrink from the spotlight of the World Cup. He's clearly capable of the spectacular, so I expect we'll see a "Nike moment" or two in the next month of games.