Neymar turned 25 in the middle of this season, and in the final game of the campaign he clocked up his 512th career appearance. Scoring in his third consecutive Copa del Rey Final as Barcelona beat Alavés 3-1.

Even before you compare him to anyone else or do any research, it’s obvious that 512 is a frankly ludicrous number of games to have played at the age of 25. There are players approaching 30 who have barely just cracked the 500 game barrier, and here’s Neymar having done so soon after reaching his mid-20s? What kind of sorcery is this?!

Moreover, he’s not just some appearance-merchant, showing up and clocking the miles. Oh no, he’s been a central protagonist for most all of those 512 games, with eyes all over him and immense pressure to carry country and even club at times in the last couple of years. And despite all that expectation he has played brilliantly. Just how brilliantly? Well…



Turned 25 in: 2016/17

Career games by that season: 512

Career goals by that season: 311

Career Trophies by that season: Campeonato Paulista (3), 2010 Copa do Brasil, 2011 South American u20 Championship, 2011 Copa Libertadores, 2012 Recopa Sudamerica, 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2013 Supercopa de España, La Liga (2), Copa del Rey (3), 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, 2015 FIFA Club World Cup, 2016 Olympic Games

*All player figures include international games from u15s youth level upwards

He’s had an extraordinary career so far, and all indications point to there being much more to come from the elastic man with the iron will. The numbers are gaudy, but the actual play is sensational. Superb dribbling, incredible passing and vision, terrifying speed, great finishing (though this season has had some ropey moments), his decision-making gets better the bigger the game he’s playing in.

Neymar is stupendous, getting better every year. It’s tempting to say ignore the numbers and just watch him, but then, look at those numbers! Look at the trophy haul! It’s so impressive, but how does it stack up? At first glance 512 games and 311 goals with all those trophies is phenomenally impressive, yes. But when put against some of the modern greats, can Neymar compare? Squawka investigates.

Lionel Messi

Turned 25 after: 2011/12

Career games by that season: 422

Career goals by that season: 295

Career Trophies by that season: La Liga (8), 2005 FIFA u20 World Cup, UEFA Champions League (4), Supercopa de España (6), 2008 Olympic Games, Copa del Rey (4), UEFA Super Cup (3), FIFA Club World Cup (3)

The greatest player in the world turned 25 after the greatest individual season any player has ever had with his ludicrous 73 goal 2011/12. He was comfortably the best player in the world and on his way to winning a fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or. Neymar has played many more games and has slightly more goals (largely because Messi turned 25 after a season so had no games played as a 25 year-old where Neymar will have almost half a season) and has given us plenty of his own kind of sorcery, but he’s not the all-time great supernatural force Messi was at the same age.

Cristiano Ronaldo


Turned 25 in: 2009/10

Career games by that season: 459

Career goals by that season: 189

Career Trophies by that season: 2003/04 FA Cup, League Cup (2), Premier League (3), 2007 Community Shield, UEFA Champions League (3), FIFA Club World Cup (3), Copa del Rey (2), 2011/12 La Liga, 2012 Supercopa de España, 2014 UEFA Super Cup, Euro 2016

When Cristiano Ronaldo turned 25, he was midway through his first season in Spain. He scored (just) 33 goals and was still in the process of morphing into the unstoppable goalscoring juggernaut we now know him as. Neymar has played more than Cristiano at the same stage, won more trophies and scored over 100 more goals. That’s obscene. Now can he mimic Cristiano’s post-25 ascension? That’s where the Portuguese’s relentless brilliance really came to the fore.

Wayne Rooney


Turned 25 in: 2010/11

Career games by that season: 482

Career goals by that season: 197

Career Trophies by that season: League Cup (3), Premier League (5), Community Shield (4), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup, 2015/16 FA Cup

Like Neymar, Rooney emerged as a teenage prodigy with the hopes of an entire nation weighing upon his shoulders from the moment he was old enough to play senior football. Both men bore that burden but by the age of 25, Neymar was still streets ahead. He has already delivered two continental club triumphs and has won his nation two international trophies. Rooney could only dream of such.


Arjen Robben


Turned 25 in: 2008/09

Career games by that season: 358

Career goals by that season: 80

Career Trophies by that season: 2002/03 Eredivise, 2003 Johan Cruijff-schaal, Premier league (2), League Cup (2), 2005 Community Shield, 2006/07 FA Cup, 2007/08 La Liga, 2008 Supercopa de España

The Dutch sensation was one of the world’s finest players by the age of 25, having been the key member of Real Madrid’s side. He was soon to be replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo, but would end up at Bayern where he would become a historic figure. But at 25? He had fewer games and way fewer goals than Neymar – injuries hampering him almost every season.



Turned 25 in: 2004/05

Career games by that season: 417

Career goals by that season: 155

Career Trophies by that season: 1999 Campeonato Gaúcho, 1999 Copa América, 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup, 2002 FIFA World Cup, 2004/05 La Liga, 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup

Ronaldinho was long considered a showpony, a flash player who didn’t deliver consistently. This was always preposterous given how he had helped Brazil win all three major international trophies available to them.

At the same age Neymar is now, Ronaldinho had worked his magic on Barcelona, transforming the club and bringing pure joy back to football as a whole. This was as good as it would get for the Brazilian as he was soon to be crowned Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year and hit a peak he never would again. Neymar has better numbers at 25, but in terms of influence he’s got nothing on Ronaldinho.



Turned 25 in: 2008/09

Career games by that season: 429

Career goals by that season: 153

Career Trophies by that season: Campeonato Brasileiro (2), FIFA Confederations Cup (2), 2007 Copa América, Campeonato Paulista (2), 2010 Copa do Brasil, La Liga (2), 2008 Supercopa de España

Neymar’s idol, Robinho, was in the first act of destroying his career when he turned 25. Until then he had been on the up, constantly improving form Santos to Real Madrid and even becoming a key member of the Brazilian national team. An ill-advised move to Manchester in 2008 was the beginning of the end, though. And even at his peak, he was well behind Neymar at the same stage.

Alexis Sánchez


Turned 25 in: 2013/14

Career games by that season: 465

Career goals by that season: 117

Career Trophies by that season: 2006/07 Chilean Primiera División, 2008 Argentine Primera División, 2011/12 Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España (2), 2011 UEFA Super Cup, 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, 2012/13 La Liga

When Alexis Sánchez turned 25, he was Neymar’s teammate. A workhorse of unparalleled proportions who had excelled in four different countries. Alexis had played almost as many games as Neymar, but while his application was never in question he lacked the Brazilian’s skills, finding himself over 150 goals behind as well as several trophies too.

Thierry Henry


Turned 25 in: 2003/04

Career games by that season: 420

Career goals by that season: 168

Career Trophies by that season: 1996/97 Ligue 1, 1997 Trophée des Champions, 1998 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2000, 2001/02 Premier League, FA Cup (2), 2002 Community Shield, 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup

Henry turned 25 right at the start of the season, but despite having an entire extra season to boost his numbers and trophy count, the great French forward cannot compare to Neymar on those fronts.

However quality trumps quantity, and while in terms of club competitions he cannot compare, by 25 Henry had already helped guide France to a World Cup and Euros win. This is something Neymar would dearly love to be able to do for Brazil, but will have to wait until he’s 26 (at the earliest).

Ryan Giggs

Turned 25 in: 1998/99

Career games by that season: 390

Career goals by that season: 81

Career Trophies by that season: 1991 UEFA Super Cup, 1991/92 League Cup, Premier League (5), FA Cup (3), Community Shield (4), 1998/99 UEFA Champions League

Ryan Giggs The Ever-Living was still a lightning quick dribbling sensation at 25. His final season at that age was the incredible 1998/99, meaning he is the only player besides Lionel Messi on this list who can match Neymar in terms of trebles won.

Giggs can out-do Neymar in terms of domestic competitions win, with plenty of cups and league titles. But he falls well behind when it comes to games, goals, and international achievement. Giggs repeatedly failed to show his best for Wales, while Neymar routinely excels for Brazil.

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