Brazilian superstar Neymar has revealed that Chelsea came close to signing him in 2010, but the entry of Pele made him change his mind.
Neymar is regarded as the next big thing in world football. Probably even bigger than Eden Hazard and Oscar. Chelsea were one of the first clubs to be linked with him.
Chelsea’s chief scout Michael Emenalo and agent Pini Zahavi were in advanced negotiations with Santos for the player, who at that time had a £30 million release clause. Chelsea already had a £17 million bid rejected a few months ago. After having made an offer between £20-25 million, Chelsea’s chief executive Ron Gourlay thought he had his man. However, the teenager made a U-turn and signed a five-year contract with Santos.
Neymar, for the first time, has revealed the events that happened prior to rejecting a move to Stamford Bridge. He said:
“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.”
Given Chelsea’s record with regard to numerous teenagers failing to make the grade, Neymar’s career may not have blossomed or he could have achieved even more. We will never know. What we do know is that he is now worth close to £100 million (the sum Barcelona are believed to have paid for Neymar).