Neymar Jr seen during Neymar Jr's Five Event in Salzburg, Austria on January 23, 2021.
© Markus Berger/Red Bull Content Pool
Soccer

Goals, exuberance and a mohawk: when Neymar Jr lit up the Copa Libertadores

Ahead of Red Bull Bragantino making their debut in the iconic competition, we rewind to when a teenage Neymar Jr graced the stage in spectacular fashion.
Shkruar nga Thomas Peeters
3 min readBotuar më

The snapshot:

Not since 1963 and the days of Pelé had Santos won the prestigious Copa Libertadores. However, in 2011, the emergence of a global superstar was about to change their fortunes. Having helped his hometown club clinch the Campeonato Paulista and the Copa do Brasil in 2010, the stage was now set for a fresh-faced Neymar Jr to showcase his talent, creativity and personality to the world.

The competition:

The Copa Libertadores is the most vibrant and prestigious trophy in South American football. Contested annually by the top teams from ten nations, folklore status is reserved for those lucky enough to lift the trophy. It’s loud, it’s intense and it’s compelling viewing.
What also makes it so unique is the travel distances involved and the potential differences in temperature and altitude. In 2011, Santos had to overcome teams from Venezuela, Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay to ultimately emerge victorious.
Brazil forward Neymar Jr in action at a video shoot for Red Bull Neymar Jr´s Five on January 23, 2021.

Neymar Jr playing at a video shoot for Red Bull Neymar Jr´s Five

© Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

The excitement:

Neymar Jr’s showreel from the competition is a montage of him bamboozling defenders with outrageous flair, trickery and skill. A bolt of electricity ripped around the stadium every time the ball was at his feet, and he played with a confidence and fearlessness that stood out from the rest. Clearly, this was a man born for the big occasion.

The lucky hairstyle:

During the tournament the No.11 was sporting a mohican haircut throughout. A mohican fever swept the nation and such was the craze and popularity, fans still ask him to adopt it again now as they believe it was a good luck charm.
Neymar Jr performs during Neymar Jr's Five Event in Salzburg, Austria on January 23, 2021

Neymar Jr continues to bamboozle defenders with his outrageous skill

© Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

The goals:

Not content with just entertaining the fans with his tricks, crucial goals also started to flow. Neymar Jr found the net six times in his 13 matches, including a powerful strike from outside the box against Once Caldas in the quarter-final, as well as a calm finish against Cerro Porteño in the semi-final to all but secure their place in the final.

The final:

Five-time champions Peñarol awaited in the two-legged final. After a 0-0 draw in Uruguay, it all came down to 90 minutes at the Estádio do Pacaembu in São Paulo.
Neymar Jr opened the scoring in the 46th minute with a right-footed shot at the near post following a pass from team-mate Arouca. The goal helped Santos win 2-1 and end a 48-year wait for the trophy they craved so badly. At the final whistle, Neymar Jr was overcome with emotion at what he had just achieved.
Neymar Jr is seen during Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five 2020 Pre-Season Shoot in Paris, France on December 5, 2019.

Neymar Jr was named the South American Footballer of the Year in 2011

© Hadrien Picard/Red Bull Content Pool

The aftermath:

For his efforts, the Brazilian striker was voted Man of the Match and then South American Footballer of the Year. Eleven years on, he still ranks the Copa Libertadores as “one of the most important titles I have in my career.” The following season he scored a remarkable 43 goals in 47 appearances before sealing a move to Spanish giants FC Barcelona and beginning his spell at the top of European football.
Despite going on to win multiple trophies and captain his country, fans who were lucky enough to witness the famous night in São Paulo will always remember the moment a teenage superstar produced a captivating display to win the biggest trophy in South American football.

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