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The World Cup awaits - Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Neymar at 25

10:33 SAST 2017/02/05
Neymar Brazil Gold Medal Rio 2016 Olympics
With the Barcelona star celebrating a personal milestone on Sunday, Brasil Global Tour looks back at three other Selecao greats at his age

On Sunday, Neymar reached personal a milestone by celebrating his 25th birthday.

Brazil’s best, the current poster boy of the Selecao has already achieved so much. He currently sits fourth on Brazil’s list of all-time scorers, having netted more goals for his country than the likes of World Cup-winners Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Jairzinho.

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Before heading to Barcelona in a mega-money 2013 transfer from Santos, he'd claimed the three state titles, a Copa do Brasil, and the Copa Libertadores.

At Barcelona he would join an exclusive club by claiming the UEFA Champions League, too.

Neymar was the Champion’s League’s top scorer, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, in in 2014–15, as he became the first player in the competition’s history to score in both legs of the quarter-finals, semi-finals and then the final itself.

And while no major senior titles have been claimed, the Barcelona star is already making history with the national team.

He ended the Selecao’s eternal wait for their first Olympic gold medal in 2016, hitting the winning penalty to secure the last title for which Brazil were eligible but yet to claim.

But despite all that, Neymar is waiting for the World Player of the Year award that both Ronaldo and Ronaldinho had bagged by their 25th birthdays – though they didn’t have Messi and Cristiano do deal with. 

And of course, much more importantly, the World Cup has eluded him. 50 goals in 75 internationals, however, suggests he could claim to have done his part.

The achievments of Pele will likely remain unrivalled, regardless of how long Neymar plays.

But below, Brasil Global Tour looks back at three other Selecao greats at 25.


Born in 1966, Romario turned 25 in 1991. By then, he was with PSV in the Netherlands, where he had won a Dutch league title. He’d arrived in Europe with Rio state titles, too, claimed with Vasco.

He’d also grabbed a silver medal at the Seoul Olympics of 1988, where he was the competition’s top goalscorer, and he’d won the 1989 Copa America with the senior side.

PSV had paid around $5 million to bring him to the Eredivisie. He had also been called up to a World Cup, only for an ankle injury to rule him out of Italia ‘90. 

Romario was a goalscoring machine and took Dutch football by storm, but was already courting the sort of controversy that would become a fixture of his career. He would go on to win the World Cup in 1994 and become the first Brazilian to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award.


O Fenomeno is for many the best striker in the game’s history. By 25 Ronaldo was already eight years into his senior career, having made his debut as a 16-year-old for Cruzeiro and hitting 12 goals in 14 matches in his first season.

He was also a world champion, having formed part of the squad that triumphed at USA ’94, despite not seeing a minute of action in the competition. He too had begun his European adventure at PSV, and was similarly untouchable in Dutch football.

At 20 he was the most expensive player in the world, and the leading scorer in Spanish football after a $19.5 million move to Barcelona. He broke the record again when he joined Inter a year later, and proved himself the world’s greatest at the 1998 World Cup before a seizure on the eve of the final derailed him.

By the time he turned 25, in 2001, Ronaldo had two FIFA World Player of the Year awards, a state title, a Copa do Brasil, Spanish and Dutch Cups, a UEFA Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup. He also had two Copas America, a Confederations Cup and had hit 36 goals in 54 internationals.


Another who had already been officially recognised as the world’s best by 25 was Ronaldinho, who was by then taking world football by storm with Barcelona.

He’d also won a state title with Gremio, and a Spanish league-and-cup double in Catalonia. Titles had also been claimed with the national team, as he celebrated his 25th birthday having already claimed the 1999 Copa America and the 2002 World Cup.

Ronaldinho was at the peak of his powers. His stay at the top would be relatively short-lived. Little did anyone know it at the time, but this was as good as it would get.

Many lament that his career had drastically tailed off by the time he was 27, but Ronaldinho at 25 gave a generation of football fans memories that they will take with them to their graves.