Before watching this Netflix docuseries on Neymar, I knew little about the Brazilian who was supposed to be the next Pelé. I’ve probably seen more memes of Neymar than I’ve seen him play.
So, given my small knowledge base, 3 things in Neymar : The Perfect Chaos really stood out to me:
- Neymar, his father, and their company NR Sports are a prolific branding and image machine
- Neymar hasn’t accomplished very much on the field
- At 30, his playing career is already almost over
As I’ve often lamented, these biographical documentaries about current athletes and teams are really infomercials. The series pitches the product that is Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, popularly known as Neymar. The 3 episodes are directed by David Charles Rodrigues, who films in an image-laced advertising style with testimonials from many talking heads such as Messi, Suarez, Mbappe, Beckham, past Brazilian players, journalists, and coaches. LeBron James, an early master of branding and co-branding, is one of the many executive producers listed.
Episode 1: The Great Brazilian Promise
In the first episode, we learn Neymar’s history as a young player. His talent was recognized at age 8, and in 2006 at age 14, he tried out at Real Madrid, where he first met Beckham. Although Neymar Senior was offered a position with the club, father and son decided to stay in Brazil. Neymar then proceeded to build his young career with Santos, the home club of Pelé. Throughout this episode and the series, Neymar Senior insists that all such career decisions are made by Neymar and not by the father.
By 2010 at age 18, Neymar is a star at Santos and also a skinny trendsetter sporting an eye-catching Mohawk. He has his first meltdown at a game and the opposing coach says Neymar is becoming a monster. But Neymar is also becoming an easily recognizable and popular brand. Neymar’s parents started the company NR Sports when Neymar was 14 year old, and by 2019, the company expands to over 215 employees controlling Neymar’s image worldwide. As Neymar’s manager, the father accrues a comfortable income.
At 19, Santos wins the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Neymar starts getting tattooes. He also gets a girl pregnant, who gives birth to son Davi. Although the film does not really make clear what is Neymar’s continuing relationship to the mother and child, apparently Carolina Dantas is married with a growing family of her own. It appears Neymar sees his son on occasion and especially during the pandemic, and the boy is good content for his Instagram.
Episode 2: The Comeback
In the 2nd episode, Neymar joins Messi at Barca in 2013 at age 21. After the first season, he heads back to Brazil for WC 2014. He suffers a fractured vertebra in the quarter-final game against Columbia. He misses the disastrous semi-final, where Brazil loses to Germany 7-1 in a game that brings much of the world to tears.
Neymar returns to the field at the start of Barca’s 2014-2015 season. Luis Suarez has joined the club and the trio win everything, including the 2015 Champions League. However, there is no real footage of that campaign; perhaps they could not get media rights.
Instead, the episode moves on to the 2017 Champions League, where Barca comes back from a 0-4 deficit to defeat PSG on aggregate in a game known as La Remontada (“The Comeback”). They were eliminated in the subsequent quarter-final. Around that time, Neymar decides to break his contract with Barca and head to PSG. The film seems to justify this decision by pointing out that Messi got the credit for La Remontada; Neymar’s star could not shine at Barca.
Signing with PSG, where Mbappe plays, makes Neymar the world’s most expensive player, but early on he suffers a bad injury. He returns to the field to play in WC 2018 in Russia, but instead of burnishing his reputation, Neymar becomes a rolling meme. In the film in front of his entourage, Neymar admits his back has not been the same since the fracture. Brazil exits at the hands of Belgium.
Neymar enters the 2018 PSG season in a dark mood. Many of his interviews are conducted from a video gaming chair, as he seems to retreat from the world and the many problems he has brought upon himself. In Jun-2019, he is accused of rape, but the case is dismissed 2 months later due to insufficient evidence.
Towards the end of the episode, Neymar Sr tries to counsel Neymar Jr on cleaning up his act. The segment reminded me of the Nike ad where Tiger Woods’ dead father Earl appeared to chastise his son for transgressions. The film projects the beginning of a split, of Neymar growing up. Says Neymar,
“My dad taught me all I know. He watched over me 24/7. The time comes when you no longer want that. You end up losing your father.”– Neymar
The episode ends with an announcer saying that Neymar wants to leave PSG.
Episode 3: This is Paris
The 3rd episode covers the pandemic and how PSG makes the Champions League final for the first time in its history. Despite this, PSG fans don’t show Neymar a lot of love. The rest of the episode is about his legacy: his son and his Institute. At the end, the film announces that Neymar has renewed his contract with PSG until 2025.
As I wrote at the beginning, Neymar’s playing career thus far seems pretty unremarkable, and with his frequent injuries, he may be in decline. As a documentary, one would have to consider the series pretty biased. It communicates Neymar’s love of family, but it fails to mention that the woman holding the baby is not his wife, and that his parents divorced in 2016. The artwork in his living quarters is also unnerving — there are huge portraits of him on every wall. He seems to have no real friends except his entourage. \
I came away thinking that Neymar was not the next Pelé, but the Brazilian Beckham.
Neymar Sr keeps exhorting him to think about the next 10 years of his playing career, and after that, he can take over NR Sports. It will be interesting to see how the next few years go for Neymar, now that he is once again in an ensemble of world class players at PSG, but clearly becoming more fragile and perhaps more stuck to his gaming chair.
If you ever wanted to see a celebrity living in a cage, this is the series for you.
BTW regarding the title, Neymar Sr likes to say how football is chaos, and out of the chaos comes a superhero, like Batman. I frankly never understood what he was talking about.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6
- Released: 2022-01-25 (Netflix)
- In English and Portuguese with English sub-titles
- aka Neymar: Inside History or Por Dentro da Historia (Inside the Story), pais e filhos (parents and children)
- I watched this on Netflix
- Director: David Charles Rodrigues
- Stars: Neymar Jr , Neymar Senior
- Watch the Netflix trailer or watch the NR Sports trailer in Portuguese