September 8, 2023 - This date will forever be etched in golden letters in the annals of Brazilian football history, On this remarkable day, Neymar Jr, often referred to as 'O Príncipe,' achieved a monumental feat by surpassing the legendary 'O Rei,' Pele, to become the all-time top scorer for the Brazilian national team.
Neymar's journey to this historic moment has been a testament to his brilliance and dedication to the sport, Even as he recently transitioned from the top European leagues to Al Hilal, his commitment to the 'Selecao' never wavered.
The inevitable ascent to the top had been in the making for Neymar, a prodigious talent who first captivated fans during his Santos days before making the leap to European football, This momentous occasion was long anticipated, especially since he drew level with Pele's record some months ago, However, it was only on Friday, at the Estadio Olímpico do Para, that Neymar ascended to the status of a legend, a football myth.
His two-goal performance against Bolivia propelled him to the summit of Brazilian national team scoring charts, leaving Pele's previous record of 77 goals in the dust, Neymar now boasts an astounding 79 international goals, and with several years of his career still ahead, the sky's the limit for this football virtuoso.
In this remarkable achievement, Neymar leaves behind an illustrious group of Brazilian football legends, including Ronaldo (62), Romario (56), Zico (48), Bebeto (38), and Rivaldo (35).
The Genesis of a Legend
Rewinding to August 10, 2010, we find a young Neymar, then just 18 years old, after making waves at Santos, receiving a call-up from Mano Menezes, who had recently assumed the helm of the 'Selecao' Menezes, cognizant of Neymar's exceptional talent, entrusted him with a starting role in his debut match—a friendly against the United States, That match marked the commencement of Neymar's international journey, and he didn't disappoint, scoring his first goal for Brazil.
Fast forward 13 years and 125 games, from that momentous August day to September 8, 2023, Neymar's career has been a testament to consistency and excellence, tallying an unprecedented 79 goals in the process.
Neymar's scoring prowess has had a profound impact on Brazil's success, His goals have been synonymous with victory, as evidenced by Brazil's 55 wins, four draws, and just one loss (a friendly against Germany in 2011) in the 60 matches where Neymar found the net, In official matches, Brazil's success rate when Neymar scores is nearly flawless, with the exception being their penalty shootout elimination by Croatia in the last World Cup in Qatar.
A Journey Marked by Challenges
Despite Neymar's individual brilliance, both he and the Brazilian national team have faced their fair share of challenges at the senior level, The elusive pursuit of major titles has been a bittersweet theme, Injuries, particularly the heartbreaking setback during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and persistent issues in playmaking have hindered Brazil's quest for football supremacy, Their best World Cup finish since then was fourth place in 2014, and they narrowly missed victory in the Copa America, finishing as runners-up in 2021.
However, Neymar's prowess shines through adversity, with Japan being witness to his goal-scoring prowess as he netted nine times against them, Notably, Neymar's sole hat-trick for the 'Selecao' came against the Japanese.
At the age of 31, and despite his recent departure from European football, Neymar remains resolute in his ambition to etch his name further into the annals of Brazilian football history, His primary goal? To lead Brazil to a sixth World Cup victory at the 2026 World Cup.