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David Neres

"If I went to China, I might not be here" - Sliding doors for new Brazil star David Neres

8:47 PM MYT 22/03/2019
David Neres treino Brasil 18032019
The young Ajax winger is set to make his international debut on the Brasil Global Tour this week - but things could have been very different

Analysis - Rupert Fryer & Raisa Simplicio

Sometimes life just seems to speed up. And David Neres could be forgiven for needing a breather following the pace with which his career has progressed over the past few weeks.

Just days after the 22-year-old Ajax man turned in a star performance at the Santiago Bernabeu to help eliminate reigning UEFA Champions League champions Real Madrid, he received the biggest phone call of his life.

But that’s where things initially slowed down again. Because David Neres didn’t recognise the number, so he ignored it. More than once.

"But then I saw the same number in my WhatsApp messages and I saw who it was. I immediately called back.” The name at the top of screen read, “Tite”.

“It's unbelievable what has happened this week,” he said from Porto, where he is hoping to make his international debut when Brazil meet Panama at the Estadio Dragao on the Brasil Global Tour this month.

“It's certainly my best as a football player. If I had gone to China in January [when Ajax received a huge bid from Guangzhou Evergrande], I might not have been called up.”

He would not have played at the Bernabeu, either, the game in which Vinicius Junior was injured, leaving Tite in need of a late replacement.

It was a sliding doors moment for the youngster who rose through the ranks at Sao Paulo, making his senior debut on October 17, 2016 in a 2-1 win over Fluminense. He scored his first senior goal in his next match for the Tricolor – and just over a year later, he was in Amsterdam.

Quick, tricky and an increasing appetite for goal, the wideman wasted little time carving out a reputation as one of the biggest talents in the Dutch top flight, one of the stars of a new, young and dynamic Ajax side which is evoking memories of glories past.

With 14 goals and 11 assists in his first full season in the Dutch capital, there would be no issues of adaptation. And that ability to adapt will be key as he seeks to begin what looks set to be a long international career.

Able to operate on either flank and also centrally in a false no.9 position, he has repeatedly starred in Ajax’s exciting front-line, adding the skill and guile that has seen them earn so many plaudits across Europe. 

And his decision-making has improved, too, adding end product to the raw potential that was evident right from his debut back in Sao Paulo. He has also grown into a player that works for the collective, tackling back and helping out when his side are out of possession.

His physical development, meanwhile, has seen opposition full-backs no longer able to bully him off the ball and the cool, humble head on his shoulders looks set to ensure the evolution continues.

On Saturday, he is set to take the next step. And just before kick-off, as the Estadio do Dragao fills, he may want to stop and take a moment. After all, things are showing no signs of slowing down.