The Brazilian has always had the skill, but his questionable behavior without the ball has often spoiled a career now at a crossroads.
Believe it or not, Neymar is now 27 years of age and simply must start maturing on and off the pitch if he’s ever to reach his full potential.
No longer a promising boy from Brazil with the world at his feet, the Paris Saint-Germain attacker is currently trying to win back his club’s fans after a summer of transfer drama.
Making no secret of his desire to return to Barcelona, the Santos product showed he’s yet to fully grow up as he threw an almighty tantrum in a questionable attempt to secure a move back to Camp Nou.
When the transfer failed to materialise, Neymar’s reputation in Paris was left in tatters. And it was a mess that was largely his own making.
While his off-field behaviour has seen PSG’s fans turn on him – with banners cursing the Brazilian unfurled last month – Neymar has wasted no time letting his on-field quality do the talking.
In three of his four matches since returning to action, Neymar has scored match-winning goals. From a stunning late bicycle kick to a simple tap-in, he’s responded to the PSG faithful in a way no press release or heartfelt Instagram message could have hoped to.
Though his football skills have never been in question, Neymar’s actions without a ball at his feet have all too often let him down, with former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque highlighting that fact in a recent interview with Cadena SER.
“Between Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe, I like Neymar right now. He does a lot of bullsh*t and he’s not an example for anyone, but as a player he’s terrific,” Del Bosque said.
The PSG star himself has finally started to review his behaviour, too, which could mark an important first step in him cutting the ‘bullsh*t’.
“I’m a very reserved guy, I keep things to myself. But it comes to a point where I end up frustrated, getting angry, exploding and not communicating in a correct way. I’m trying to improve on that,” Neymar told The Mirror.
“Whenever I have to have a certain conversation with someone, I try to talk. And I think this is doing me good.
“I think when you are mentally well things happen naturally. You are more likely to do the right things. If you are not so well, things will not happen the way you expect.
“Sometimes it’s hard because you always have to be perfect and as a human being it is impossible.
“I messed up several times and recovering all the confidence I had has a high price, but I think it’s normal for human beings to fail, it’s part of life and due to these errors you grow and learn.”
Having been thrust into the spotlight at such a young age, you can’t fault Neymar for acting out occasionally, but now in the peak years of his career he risks never quite reaching the heights he should have.
Thankfully, after a summer of controversy, he does appear ready to grow up and be a good example on and off the pitch.
“When fame happens to you, it ends up being a little strange, but you get used to it,” he said.
“I feel proud and happy. I am very honoured to be a person who is an example to others. It’s a way of encouragement.
“So if I can help somehow, I always try to do the right thing, playing football, taking a photo or giving a hug. I’m very happy with everyone’s support.”
Right now, Neymar is letting his actions do the talking as he puts his head down and looks to inspire a stalling PSG.
Though Thomas Tuchel’s side do sit top of Ligue 1, they’ve looked far from their best early on, with Neymar’s return proving decisive.
After scoring another match winner against Bordeaux on Saturday, the former Barcelona attacker got somewhat philosophical when asked about his relationship with PSG’s fans, who have struggled to welcome him back with open arms.
“I understand the fans and I know that it was hard for them,” Neymar said.
“It is like with women. Sometimes you argue and spend some time without talking. However, with love and affection, you go back to normal.
“I am here to help PSG and I will give my life on the pitch.”
With Neymar and PSG’s relationship currently at an awkward crossroads, with a divorce on hold for now, he must do his best to salvage it.
Should he stay fit and focused, he can prove decisive for Tuchel’s side both domestically and in the Champions League.
Having stumbled dramatically in Europe in recent years, PSG have the tools at their disposal to be contenders again this season. But a lot will depend on Neymar’s actions – both on and off the pitch.