Neymar announced Saturday night that he will sign a five-year deal with Barcelona on Monday so he could play one last match for Santos on Sunday. The 21-year-old has become Brazil's most celebrated and treasured footballer, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2011 and just about every individual award the country has to offer in his four years with the first team. But on Sunday, it came to an end against Flamengo and Neymar was clearly moved.
He wept during the national anthem before game, which ended in a 0-0 draw. From Reuters:
"It was an honour to have played for this marvelous team Santos, I am so happy I did," he told reporters.
"Every child has a dream, either to be a player, a dentist or a reporter. My dream was to become a professional athlete and I have achieved that. Today Barcelona is fulfilling my dream of going to a totally beautiful team," he told Globo TV.
Now he moves on to a new home and a bigger challenge. It will be an environment that will probably be much harsher on him than Brazil has been. Instead of being a kid vouched for by Pele and rallied around as the great hope for a country's dream of winning the World Cup when they host in 2014, Neymar becomes an outsider and a price tag. Though Barcelona should provide the most welcoming atmosphere of any major club, he's entering a very different situation that could make him long for his time with Santos if he isn't up to the task.
Or he'll score buckets of goals and win oodles of trophies while smiling with Leo Messi all day.