In the modern era of football, no footballer has managed to match the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In a league of their own, the two phenoms have shattered records, claimed almost every honour there is to be won in the sport and continue to enjoy the spotlight for their unmatched skills. But, while the duo has enticed fans with their exploits, there is another man who, time and again, has proved he's not far behind.
Brazil's prized possession, Neymar is probably the closest any footballer has come to Ronaldo and Messi. Third highest goal-scorer for his national team (only behind Pele and Ronaldo), the 27-year-old has won over fans with his dribbling, finishing, skill, pace and ability to play with both feet.
Currently plying his trade in France, Neymar has been a vital cog in Paris Saint-Germain's setup in Ligue 1. But, the recent times have neither been kind to the Brazilian, nor his fans. The PSG forward has been prone to injuries in the last couple of years, and his latest was the second to his fifth metatarsal in the right foot.
With the initial threat of being ruled out for the rest of the season, Neymar has been recuperating well with a potential UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg a likely target for his return. While his injury has restricted his movements, Neymar remains determined to mark a return as soon as possible. And, his commitment was in full display at his 27th birthday party in Paris.
Staying true to the party theme, Neymar was seen sporting a red blazer and even had red crutches to go with it. But, if his attire had people talking about his fashion sense, Neymar's tearful speech and birthday wish had football fans lauding his commitment to the game.
"What I wanted the most as a birthday present today is a new metatarsal. So, I could be on the field fighting and doing what I love the most, which is playing soccer," Neymar said as emotions got the better of him. During his speech, Neymar revealed that he had thought about cancelling the celebration due to his injury, but after talking with friends he decided that it would be best to share a good time with his guests.
"It's been very hard to be on crutches all this time. Every athlete knows how hard that is. They are giving me all the strength possible to help me return as soon as possible," said Neymar, who also thanked his PSG teammates for their support.
While the PSG forward was slammed and laughed at for his antics at the Russia World Cup, his tearful speech would surely have people respecting his commitment to football.