• Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Neymar turns 30 without a single Ballon d’Or; Ronaldo at 37 – how Brazil star compares with fellow birthday boy Ronaldo

February 5th could be special in some way. There is, at least in the case of world-class footballers.

Cristiano Ronaldo was born on this day in 1985 on the island of Madeira. Neymar was born in Mogi das Cruzes, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, seven years later.

It’s a strange coincidence that two of contemporary football’s greatest players were born on the same day, but although Ronaldo has gone on to solidify himself as one of the best ever, it’s difficult to shake the notion that Neymar has never quite lived up to his enormous potential.

At Santos, he established himself as Brazil’s golden boy, a future superstar in the making. He was already being hyped as a shoo-in for a Ballon d’Or victory when he departed for Barcelona in 2013 at the age of 21.

Despite this, no Ballon d’Or has been awarded to the forward as he approaches his 30th birthday. Indeed, he came in 16th place in the voting for the award in 2021, and his move to Paris Saint-Germain has not seen him reach new personal heights.

Instead, he’s been overshadowed by Kylian Mbappe, one of the newcomers, and it was his teammate and close friend Lionel Messi who won the Ballon d’Or for a record-extending seventh time last year.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo celebrates his 37th birthday at the club where he first rose to prominence.

Manchester United may not be the force they once were under Alex Ferguson, but Ronaldo’s surprise return to Old Trafford was a sensational tale, and he continues to offer match-winning moments even if the Red Devils haven’t exactly morphed into title challengers.

Stats Perform examines what Neymar has accomplished thus far in his career, comparing it to Ronaldo’s achievements by the time he was in his twenties.

The medallions

When Ronaldo turned 30 in 2015, a year after winning his third Ballon d’Or and a year before winning his fourth, he was at Real Madrid. In 2017, he went on to finish sixth, which was a new record at the time.

By the age of 30, Ronaldo had won four league titles (three Premier League titles and one LaLiga title), five domestic cup titles, and two Champions League titles. He won two Club World Cups and the UEFA Super Cup throughout his career.

He was a key member of Ferguson’s dominant United team in the 2000s, partnering with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez in a scintillating assault that won three Premier League titles in a row between 2007 and 2009, before moving to Real Madrid in a then-world-record move. His first Champions League title came in 2007-08, and he left United after losing in the 2009 final to Barcelona.

Upon Ronaldo’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu, and for much of the period before he reached 30, Barca were the dominant power.

By the end of his twenties, Ronaldo had won a total of 16 major championships. By the time he left Santos, however, Neymar had already won six titles.

In Spain, he won two more league titles, as well as the Copa del Rey three times, as well as the Champions League, Club World Cup, and Supercopa de Espana once each.

Neymar has yet to win the Champions League during his time at PSG, but he has a trophy tally of ten and counting, and unlike Ronaldo, he has an Olympic gold medal to his name, which he won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Neymar has won 28 titles, 21 of them in Europe and one with the Brazilian national team (Confederations Cup 2013). However, due to injury, Neymar was unable to participate in Brazil’s winning 2019 Copa America campaign.

The competitions

Ronaldo was 28 when Barcelona paid €86.2 million for Neymar. The Clasico rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho was finished, albeit the match was still filled with superstars on both sides.

Ronaldo appeared in 22 Clasico matches before his 30th birthday, starting 21 of them. In 1,928 minutes of action, he scored 14 goals and added one assist.

In four of these games, Neymar faced Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and scored twice, notably on his Clasico debut, when he started the scoring and set up Alexis Sanchez’s sublime goal in a 2-1 Barca victory.

Barcelona won two of the four Clasico games in which Neymar appeared when Ronaldo was still in his twenties, while Madrid won the other two.

In his eight appearances in the Clasico, Neymar has three goals and as many assists.

The objectives

Since joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar has 195 goals in European club football.

It’s not a bad haul, but it pales in contrast to Ronaldo’s 411 goals for Sporting CP, Manchester United, and Real Madrid by the time he turned 30.

Ronaldo had already scored 36 goals in all competitions in 2014-15 by February 5, 2015. That season, he scored a career-high 61 goals, the most in a single season of his career.

That 61-goal haul came at the end of a six-year stretch in which Ronaldo had scored at least 50 goals. Neymar’s best season tally is 39 (2014-15), but his totals with PSG have been declining year after year, with his total for 2021-22 standing at three in all competitions, compared to 14 for Ronaldo.

Of course, Ronaldo has now surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei as the all-time best goalscorer in international football history.

The Portugal captain has 115 goals for his country, 52 of which came while he was still in his twenties.

Neymar, who has scored 70 goals for Brazil over the course of his 11-year career, wins by 18 goals.

He still has a long way to go to catch Ronaldo, who is still going strong for Portugal, but if he can match Ronaldo’s durability, that is one aim that may well be in Neymar’s sights.

However, unlike Ronaldo and Messi, Neymar’s injury record suggests that, as he approaches his thirties, his chances of becoming an all-time great are small.


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