Brazilians hail 'new Robinho' Neymar

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilians believe they have uncovered another precocious talent in the shape of 17-year-old Neymar, who after only four first-team appearances has been hailed as the new Robinho.

Neymar, who still has a brace on his teeth, wears the Santos number seven shirt which once belonged to Robinho (pictured) and has the same frail-looking physique and ability to confound opponents with his trickery.

He scored after starting for the first time last Sunday against Mogi Mirim and was on target again on Wednesday in a 4-0 win over Rio Branco in the Copa Brasil.

In the latter game, he also set up another goal and received an elbow in the face, leading to a red card for an opponent.

The stock of Santos number seven shirts quickly sold out after Neymar was recognised as the club's most promising player since Robinho burst onto the scene in 2002.

"I'm very happy with this privilege, but I confess to being a bit nervous about all this attention," Neymar told reporters.

Before allowing him to make his first team debut, Santos, wary of the buying power of European clubs, gave him a contract until 2014 and a penalty buy-out clause rumoured to be around 30 million euros.

After Wednesday's match, coach Vagner Mancini said: "Neymar is a beautiful player, he's different and we're aware of this.

"He has been able to tip the game in our favour in these last matches. He is a youngster, he will of course make mistakes but we are going to be very patient with him."

BIGGEST TEST

Neymar is due to face his biggest test so far when Santos play Corinthians in a Paulista championship clash on Sunday.

Former Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan striker Ronaldo is due to line up for the opposition.

"Neymar can take part in a 'clasico' and play the same way he has shown in these first games," said Mancini. "He is very mature on and off the field."

The player said he was speechless at facing such an illustrious opponent.

"I can't even describe what I will feel," he said. "It will be very emotional, Ronaldo is three times Player of the Year, and an idol in Brazil."

The question now is how long Santos can hold on to him.

Brazilian players have been leaving the country at an ever younger age.

Alexandre Pato, Brazil's last major discovery, played only a handful of games at Internacional and had not even reached his 18th birthday before he joined AC Milan.

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