I made sure Neymar didn't join Real Madrid - ex-Santos chief
In an interview with AS, former Santos president Marcelo Teixeira recalls his efforts to ward off Real Madrid's interest in Neymar back in 2006.
Marcelo Teixeira, who at the time was the president of Santos, is the chief reason why a then 14-year-old Neymar did not leave the Brazilian club for Real Madrid back in 2006, after impressing Los Blancos' youth coaches during a trial in the Spanish capital.
Now, as Madrid again seek to sign Neymar, Teixeira recalls how he fended off the LaLiga giants by tying the forward down to a professional contract despite his young age.
Why didn't Neymar sign for Real Madrid in 2006?
"Neymar was blown away by the 'galácticos', but in time we were able to get hold of his father and make him an offer that earned him a million dollars. He quickly accepted. My whole board of directors told me I was out of my mind, but we all knew Neymar was something special. Keeping him was essential to Santos, and to what the side went on to achieve with him at the centre of it. It was a difficult decision that I had to make on my own, but it was what had to be done at that moment in time."
Did you ever hold any talks with Real Madrid?
"No, at that time we didn't talk to Real Madrid."
He now looks well placed to go to the Bernabéu...
"Well, if he didn't end up going there before it's because I prevented it from happening, by taking the steps that I've told you about."
Were Santos' relations with Real Madrid not good?
"Santos' relationship with Real Madrid was problematic at that time because of Robinho's departure [from Santos to Madrid in 2005]. But in the end we kept hold of our rights [to Neymar] and relations were fine after that."
And with Barcelona?
"There are ongoing cases involving Neymar's move to Barcelona in the Spanish justice system and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, so as [the former] president of the Santos board of directors, I can't comment on that."
Do you think Real Madrid and Barcelona are going to excessive lengths to sign Neymar?
"Neymar is one of the best players in the world. If you look at his individual quality, I think he's got it in him to rival even [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. I'm confident we'll see that happen. He's well advised by his representatives, so far be it for me to tell him what to do. [But] my advice to him would be to play football and demonstrate the unique abilities that he possesses, which are the product of hard work and dedication, or course, but most of all God-given talent."
Where do you see him going?
"Any team in world football that Neymar decides to join will be getting a top professional who will make the difference out on the pitch. We'll see whether or not he ends up at Madrid; as I say, he's a player who'd make a difference to any side."
Finally, what was it like when you saw him play for the first time?
"He was 11 years old and playing futsal. I was taken to see him by Zito, who was our director of football, was a two-time World Cup winner with Brazil [in 1958 and 1962], and was the captain of the Santos side led by Pelé, which won the Intercontinental Cup twice [in 1962 and 1963]. We were quickly bowled over by his unique talents. At the time, we only had teams for players over 15. Thanks to Neymar, we set up youth sides in several other age categories, which have helped the club to uncover other great players like Paulo Ganso, Felipe Anderson, Rafael Cabral, and dozens more."