A huge summer ahead for Vinicius Junior...

Comparing Vinicius Junior’s Brazil stats to Neymar’s at the age of 23

Neymar will forever be remembered as one of the most polarising players to ever grace the game, but for all the criticism he receives, his stats compared to current stars make for fascinating reading.

Earning full international honours for Brazil at just 18 was normal for the man hyped as the heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne, with the rest of the world just beginning to hear of the little, mohawk-donning magician in Santos.

It’s been one hell of a ride since that point, with Neymar moving to Barcelona and becoming one of the best in the world alongside Messi, leaving the club to try and escape his shadow, but never managing to live up to the nigh-on impossible hype that came with a world record £200million price tag.

The forward has endured a similarly challenging career at international level.

Despite being the nation’s all-time scorer with 79 goals and counting from his 128 caps so far, it’s felt like an international career of false starts for Neymar, who was stretchered off in the quarter-final of his home World Cup in 2014 and hasn’t been able to win another trophy with the Selecao since the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Amid all that, the jury is still out. The numbers don’t lie and neither does the eye test. While he might not have defied all expectations or lived up to the unfathomable standards set, Neymar went above and beyond in his prime.

What set the tone for that hype was how he burst onto the scene in his early career.

With Neymar now 32, missing the 2024 Copa America through injury and playing his club football in Saudi Arabia, this summer feels like a passing of the torch moment between himself and Vinicius Junior.

Neymar has been scrutinised to no end, but Vinicius’ beginnings in the game weren’t much easier.

Snapped up by Real Madrid just weeks after making his senior debut as a 16-year-old for Flamengo, the pressure of playing for such an institution and signing for a whopping £38million evidently weighed heavy on the teenager in his first few years in Europe.

After a tough start, though, the winger is now blossoming and is well on course to win a first career Ballon d’Or – the award we all thought Neymar would steal from the clutches of Ronaldo and Messi.

READ: 2024 Ballon d’Or power rankings: Vini Jr & Bellingham lead the way after Madrid’s UCL win…

But while Neymar enjoyed that early success with the Selecao, from Olympic silver to Confederations Cup glory, Vinicius hasn’t even tasted that and is still waiting for his first honour with his country at senior level after debuting back in 2019.

Some might say that Neymar walked so that Vinicius Junior could run. Whatever narrative you choose to spin their careers with, it makes for interesting reading when comparing Neymar’s Brazil stats by the time he was 23 to Vinicius Junior’s right now, aged 23 and heading into a tournament.

In fact, it makes quite a shocking comparison and shows perhaps just how underrated Neymar has truly become, considering just how imperious he was from so young for club and country.

We’ve gathered Neymar’s key stats for Brazil from his debut up until the age of 23 and compared them to Vinicius Junior’s right now, the latter of whom turns 24 in July during the Copa America.

It shows that while Vinicius has enjoyed a tremendous start in his club career, he’s not had nearly the same exposure at international level.

He’s not been able to play in the now-defunct Confederations Cup nor has he represented Brazil at the Olympics, but even the lesser number of caps suggests less of a reliance, let alone the goals and assists.

His influence could be viewed completely differently this summer, however, if he is able to fire them to the Copa America or put together a strong individual tournament off the back of a terrific club season.

READ NEXT: 8 times Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior was an inspiration to us all

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Neymar for Brazil by age 23

Caps: 67

Goals: 46

Assists: 25

Honours: Olympic silver medal, 2013 Confederations Cup

Vinicius Junior for Brazil by age 23

Caps: 30

Goals: 3

Assists: 5

Honours: N/A