It certainly makes for an eye-catching headline: 'The turning point of my life was Pele telling me to snub Chelsea.' I would expect nothing less eye-catching from the Daily Mail of course.
The actual book excerpt that they run however doesn't exactly have that as a quote. Surprise! (So where do the quotation marks come from, pray tell?). Though Neymar does call the decision 'a' turning point (rather than 'the' turning point) and it wasn't just Pelé telling him to stay but also all the head honchos of Santos and presumably his father as well. This is where we make the obvious joke about Barcelona getting into trouble for all the shady dealings with Neymar's father around Neymar's eventual transfer. Yeah, sorry, Neymar Sr., Peter Kenyon had long left the club by then.
Anyway, here's the story as (supposedly) written by Neymar in his autobiography. Yes, you get an autobiography at 22 if you're Neymar. Your life sucks compared to his. Mine does, too.
It was August 23, 2010. My father and I had a meeting with president Luis Álvaro at the Santos headquarters, inside the Vila Belmiro. Chelsea had made a huge transfer bid. In the middle of our conversation, the president turned off the lights and pointed at an empty chair.
‘This is the chair of the great national sports hero. Since Ayrton Senna's death, this chair is vacant. If Neymar Jnr stays in Santos and refuses Chelsea's proposal, he will give his first step to sit in this chair.'
That made us think. That decision would be a turning point in my life. Even Pele called me. Can you imagine how important I felt? The King of Football called and asked me to stay.
He reminded me of his entire career with Santos, his five world titles with the national team and the club, and all the recognition he received. It wasn't easy but it was the right decision for us. We did the right thing for our family, friends and my career.
Good for him, I guess. Two years later we got us a Neymar anyway with Eden Hazard -- and I'm not talking strictly in terms of playing style, but in terms of the type of transfer: the BIG splash for Europe's most coveted, exciting, scintillating, flamboyant attacking talent -- so we're all good now.
The oddly specific date got me wondering though, how did WAGNH cover this saga, brand new blog in a post-2010 World Cup world as we were. For example, on just the third day of existence, Graham got to write a scouting report on the then 18-year-old (just a few hours before Chelsea announced Ramires' transfer - funny bit about misplaying "a few passes").
"It's hard to find much to say about this kid without the praise becoming hyperbolic."
"His style is guaranteed to draw fouls, as he's got an absolutely divine touch to go with the charming mentality that the defence is a toy to be played with and teased, something that I imagine the Richard Dunnes of the world will take exception to. It probably won't matter, though. He displays exceptionally quick feet, the sort of acceleration that would make a cheetah blush (see, I'm doing it now), and the ability to finish pretty handily when put through..."
As it turned out, there would be just one more article on Neymar, a week later, which confirmed that he wasn't actually coming to Chelsea. (Do note random mention of David Luiz.) The date on it was August 19, 2010. Four days before the dramatic meeting detailed in Neymar's book. What does that mean? I have no idea. I actually just enjoyed reading some old things and imagining what it would've been like to have an 18-year-old Neymar playing on the wing next to Didier Drogba and opposite Florent Malouda. I think it would've been fun.*
This concludes your trip down memory lane. Now back to your regularly scheduled World Cup.
* And maybe, just maybe, it would've saved us from Torres.