Already recognised as one of the most talented young players to emerge from Brazil in recent years, Santos’ 18 year-old Neymar da Silva has a big future ahead of him in the game. A very modern forward capable of leading the line and playing on both flanks, the Sao Paulo-born player has excited the Brazilian football public with strings of stunning performances over the last twelve months.

A player blessed with electrifying pace and prodigious skill on the ball, Neymar has developed into one of South America’s finest young players since joining Santos, the club that once nurtured the great Pele, as a 9 year-old. Since then the forward has risen through the ranks at the Vila Belmiro Stadium, becoming a central part of the first team set-up early last year and making an instant impact in the Brazilian Serie A. Indeed, since making his debut in the March of 2009, Neymar has scored 40 goals in 74 appearances for the senior side to establish himself as the key player in a team which will be hoping to mount a serious title challenge this season.

As is the case with the majority of talented young South American players, Neymar has been linked with moves away from his homeland ever since being recognised as an exceptional talent whilst still a part of the youth academy at Santos. In recent months the player has been linked most prominently with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Inter, clubs that he is more than capable of starring for, if not immediately, then certainly within the next couple of seasons. Despite these advances – Real Madrid once even went as far to claim to have signed a pre-contract with the player – Neymar has remained focused on playing for Santos for the time being, a focus that has even extended to him signing a long-term contract with the club which lasts until 2014 (not that many expect him to fulfill it).

In terms of his international career, Neymar is yet to play for the Selecao, with Dunga’s refusal to select the prodigy drawing some heavy criticism in Brazil, far heavier criticism than that which the Coach received for the omissions of Ronaldinho, Adriano and Alexandre Pato from his provisional World Cup squad. However, the Santos player has featured for the U17 side in the past and it is surely only a matter of time before he bursts onto the senior international scene, his best chance likely to come following Dunga’s planned departure after the World Cup.

It’s a great shame that we won’t see Neymar in South Africa this summer, but, with a big reputation and an outrageous amount of technical ability, it is surely only a matter of time before the Santos prodigy will be showcasing his talents in Europe. This boy’s going to be a massive star.