Neymar latest chapter in long Brazilian tradition at PSG
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
Aug. 04, 2017
PARIS (AP) — One thing is certain in Neymar's new life at Paris Saint-Germain: He will not feel homesick.
The Brazil forward, bought by the Parisian club for a world record 222 million-euro ($262-million) price tag, will be welcomed by a strong contingent of Brazilian internationals already in the French team.
PSG has a longtime relationship with the South American country.
Following in the footsteps of his friend and compatriot Dani Alves — who also joined PSG this summer — Neymar became the 31st Brazilian player in the club's history when he finally signed a five-year contract until June 2022, putting the transfer saga to an end on Thursday.
PSG was founded in 1970, the year Brazil won its third World Cup title. PSG soon after tried to lure the best player in the world to the City of Lights, but Pele declined the offer.
The first Brazilian player to wear the club's colors was Joel Camargo, a world champion who joined the club in 1971.
A long list of technically gifted players, including the likes of Leonardo and Ronaldinho, has since graced the Parc des Princes ground. PSG's current squad features five Brazilian players, with Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Lucas completing the quintet, and it feels appropriate that PSG's new away yellow kit was chosen to pay tribute to the club's link with Brazil.
"We've been chatting the entire month, sending text messages, calling each other," Neymar said on Friday during his first press conference in Paris. "In the end I've spoken to everyone. And more than just being excellent footballers, they are all very good friends. I love the fact that we play together for Brazil and also here in Paris."
No other club in France has recruited as many players from Brazil.
"There is something special between PSG and Brazil," Lucas said. "Some very important players have left their mark on the club's history. Brazilian people love French people and Paris. All Brazilians dream of Paris."
The relationship between the French league club and Brazil intensified during the 1990s when then owner, pay TV Canal Plus, recruited foreign stars.
During that golden era for French football clubs, a period that was marked by the strong rivalry between PSG and Marseille, the first big Brazilian signings were a pair of Benfica players, playmaker Valdo and defender Ricardo.
In a soccer coup, PSG recruited Rai in 1993 — one year before Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Rai was a fan favorite and remains a club icon after he helped to write some of the most memorable pages in PSG's history in a team that won the 1996 European Cup Winners' Cup, a league title, two French Cups as well as two league cups.
But the elegant No. 10's popularity can't be compared to the excitement fueled by Ronaldinho. Although the former Gremio player stayed only two seasons in Paris — from 2001-03 — and did not win a single title, Ronaldinho is still remembered as the "Little Prince" for his tremendous dribbling skills and acceleration.
It's now Neymar's challenge to become the King.
List of Brazilian players at PSG since the club's inception in 1970:
Abel Braga, Adailton, Alex Costa, Alex Dias, Jose Aloisio, Andre Luiz, Dani Alves, Joel Camargo, Marcos Ceara, Cesar, Christian, David Luiz, Edmilson, Everton, Geraldao, Leonardo, Lucas, Marquinhos, Maxwell, Armando Monteiro, Nene, Neymar, Paulo Cesar, Rai, Reinaldo, Ricardo, Ronaldinho, Souza, Thiago Silva, Valdo, Vampeta.