Neymar could have been Real Madrid's Lionel Messi, according to the coach who trained him at the Santiago Bernabeu when he was just 14.
The Brazilian superstar, now the world's most expensive footballer after joining PSG from Barcelona last summer, trained with Madrid in 2006.Jesus Gutierrez, who was coach of Madrid's Under-14 side at the time, remembers him well, and says he captured the attention of even the most senior figures at the club.
"The first day, he seemed like a small kid, thin, shy, quiet... but once he joined the team on the pitch, it was like he had been part of the team his whole life," Gutierrez told Goal in an exclusive interview.
"He quickly left some clues of what to expect from him. He had an amazing capacity to play with both feet, pass, dribble, shoot.
"From the second day of training, the Academy bosses came to watch Neymar live. They told me to do just 10-15 minutes of warm-up and then a friendly game. And that's what we were doing that week. It was amazing. With just 14 days of training he knew exactly what to do in the game, the sense of football.
"And that's not usual at that age. It was a cold week in February, but there were always coaches and bosses there watching. There were more people watching us training that week than in the rest of the season."
Gutierrez insists that he did his very best to convince Madrid to secure Neymar from Brazilian club Santos, labelling the brilliant winger the best player he has ever had, though he maintains that the Spanish giants should have no blame attributed to them for missing out on his signature.
Indeed, he believes that Neymar may well reminisce on those times now, with Madrid reportedly hoping to secure his signature in the summer.
"I was determined that Real Madrid sign Neymar," he added. "I had some very talented players in the Real Academy, but he was the best player I ever had. And Real Madrid wanted to sign Neymar too.
"But the rumour then was that they called Santos and in Brazil they made some offer to stay in Santos. It wasn't Real Madrid's fault because they wanted to sign him.
"Real Madrid treated Neymar very well: they offered to let him to go to the Santiago Bernabeu to watch Real Madrid, and to go to the first-team dressing room where there were many Brazilians.
"Why not think that Neymar could now think of those days in the Real Academy and sign for Real and become one of the stars after having visited all those places when he was a kid?
"I feel Neymar could have been the 'Real Madrid Messi', as the young foreign player, very talented, who is raised in the club and spends 10 years as the leader of the club."
Goal understands that PSG have promised Neymar that they will sell him to Real if they win the Champions League , and they face the Spanish giants in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.