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Work and play - Brazil's samba star Neymar has it all

From Shasta Darlington, CNN
updated 12:40 PM EST, Thu March 1, 2012
Neymar made his debut for the Brazil national team in August 2010 against the U.S. in New Jersey. The 18-year-old marked his first match for the five-time world champions with a goal in Brazil's 2-0 win. Neymar made his debut for the Brazil national team in August 2010 against the U.S. in New Jersey. The 18-year-old marked his first match for the five-time world champions with a goal in Brazil's 2-0 win.
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A samba star is born
Libertadores leader
Pele's protege?
Rivaling Ronaldinho?
Carnival!
Strutting his stuff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil star Neymar says he has to enjoy being young while he has the chance
  • The 20-year-old has recently been seen partying during Brazil's carnival season
  • The Santos forward is unsure if he will be playing in Brazil when the 2014 World Cup arrives
  • Neymar thinks three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is the world's best player

(CNN) -- Neymar plays football like he tackles life -- with flair, excitement and a sense of fun.

At 20, he is potentially the best young player on the planet, and is tipped to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Brazilian icons such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and perhaps even the legendary Pele.

The Santos forward's flamboyant tricks and flicks have captured the attention of scouts around the world, with his exceptional solo strike against Flamengo earning him FIFA's 2011 Ferenc Puskas award for the year's best goal.

And his flair on the pitch is more than matched off it. Neymar was pictured several times lapping up the party atmosphere during the recent carnival season in his homeland.

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"I'm 20 years old, I have to take advantage of being young," he told CNN.

"It's hard, especially for me. I want to do this and that, but I have to follow a line. I'm a professional player and a professional athlete. I have to resist some things to get ahead in the future. That's my life."

Despite his appetite for the sights and sounds of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Neymar is still working hard to improve all aspects of his game.

"I'm always trying to perfect everything -- dribbling, shooting, headers and control. You can always improve," said the striker, who last year helped Santos win South America's top club tournament, the Copa Libertadores.

Neymar is also becoming an increasingly important part of the Mano Manezes' Brazil national team, scoring eight goals in his first 16 games for his country.

"Being on the Brazilian team is a privilege," he said. "There are some marvelous players and I'm very happy to be among them."

In 2014, the World Cup will arrive in Brazil, and the country's football fans expect their "Samba Kings" to claim a record sixth crown on home soil. But Neymar is not letting himself get distracted by dreams of glory.

"It's two years away, it's a long time. But in football, time passes quickly. So I have to constantly be playing a good game, constantly working so that I'm in every line up," he said.

Whether Neymar will still be plying his trade in Brazil when the four-yearly tournament comes around is unclear. He has been heavily linked with a move to Spanish and European champions Barcelona, Real Madrid and English side Chelsea.

I'm a professional player and a professional athlete, I have to resist some things to get ahead in the future
Neymar

"I don't know about the future," he said. "It is two years, a lot can happen. I don't know if I'll leave or if I'll stay, there are a lot of things ahead ... Barcelona is an excellent team. If not the best team of all time, then they are among the best."

Joining the Catalan club would give Neymar the chance to team up with a player who he has been drawing favorable comparisons with, Argentina's three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.

"The best player currently is Messi. I think he is a great player at an excellent time on a great team. So for me, he is the best," he said.

Earning a move to one of Europe's leading teams would depend on Neymar keeping on the straight and narrow. If he does stray too far from his sporting duties, his father is there to get him back on track.

"My father has been by my side since I was little," he said. "He takes care of things, my finances and my family.

"He is the one who is in charge. He's the boss. There's always somebody nearby, keeping an eye on me more than watching me."

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