Football, also known as Soccer in the U.S., is the world’s most popular sport. With domestic leagues in almost every country, and international tournaments that dominate TV screens globally. Occasionally there comes a player that transcends their abilities on the pitch, and reaches beyond the sport itself, to become a global superstar. Neymar Jr. is one such person, someone who’s known throughout the sporting world, while also being celebrity in his own right with a few movie cameos. Neymar: The Perfect Chaos is an original limited series coming to Netflix detail the man behind the celebrity.
The biographical docu-series is directed by David Charles Rodrigues, and executive produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter. The series recounts the history of the Brazilian boy wonder, Neymar Jr., from his humble days of playing for his boyhood club, all the way up until his 2020 Champions League run with Paris Saint-Germain F.C. over three episodes.
Being a long-time lover of the beautiful game, I’ve seen football produce a very eclectic and eccentric group of players throughout the decades. However, success breeds fame, which for some can be a giant gaping pitfall from which there is no return. Few players find that harmonious equilibrium to do both, and here is where Neymar: The Perfect Chaos lives as the series highlights the player’s rise to iconic status.
The biographical story balances concurrent footage from the past of Neymar, to his current dealings as a superstar as he balances family, football, and fame. As with any sports documentary, it comes complete with an abundance of testimonials speaking on behalf of the player, the matches they were involved with, or providing their insight into the feeling and tone behind the scenes of certain periods of time.
Neymar as a player has often been the subject of many discussions in the world of football. From the player’s rise to stardom and playing with legends at Barcelona, to Brazil’s crushing defeat by Germany in the 2014 World Cup on home soil, or his involvement in that stunning round of 16 knockout game between Barcelona and PSG, and ultimately, to his transfer to Paris for $263,000,000, and leading the team to a Champions League final. He is an exciting and electrifying player when on form, producing magic on the field. Expectations are high for superstars though, and there is more to a player than the game, as this series provides a look behind the curtain into the personal life of the player.
The series opens with an introduction of the player, clearly wanting to tell his side to the story of his life asking the filmmakers to show all of the media publications and videos of fans calling him a diva and a monster. The meat of the episode however is based on Neymar Jr. the child and the many barriers the young Brazilian overcame. He rose from the slums of Brazil to play for his boyhood club, eventually leading his side Santos to a trophy-winning season the likes of which the club had not seen for 48 years. In fact, the last time the club had won in this style was during the tenure of the great Pelé.
The documentary covers many personal issues, namely the pressure on such a young player to live up to the price tag placed on him and the media spotlight. At one point early in his Barcelona career, Neymar admits to breaking down in tears in the locker room from the intense pressure, having to be consoled and encouraged by Messi. Later you see as the player retells the insurmountable weight of a nation placed on him during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in which he received a devastating injury that almost ended his career.
While the series looks for an honest balance between the lows of Neymar’s career, it also does a superb job at hyping up the highs. During the second episode, titled “The Comeback” I got to relive two matches that as a fan will live with me forever. Firstly Neymar talks about the unbearable weight of the Brazilian World Cup in which they were eventually beaten in the semi-final 7-1 by Germany. It was a brilliant sequence of footage because it not only highlights the cultural importance of Football to the country of Brazil, but it also covered the sheer economical disparities of hosting a tournament like this while the vast population of the country lived in squalor while FIFA reaped a majority of the benefits.
Contrasting this crushing moment, we see that later, Neymar goes on to help his national team win their first-ever gold in the Olympics, which was just unbelievable. But beyond this, it recounts a season at Barcelona in which three players came into a team at the height of their playing career and produced a season of Football unlike any other: Messi, Neymar, Suarez. This team would go on to win the Champions League, but not before having to overcome a deficit no team had ever come back from. During the round of 16 Barcelona had suffered a 4-0 defeat to PSG.
Episode two just captured the dichotomy of football, in one instant it can be the most intoxicating thrill as you celebrate victories and goals, to suddenly mourning the reverse and watching success slip from your hands.
Something that surprised me though was the exploration of the relationship between Neymar Sr., and Jr., as the former created a business designed solely to optimize the brand of the player and handle his PR. His father states on many occasions how his son’s legacy and wellbeing are always at the forefront of their decisions, but recognizes the strain the business and his professional involvement with his son have taken on their connection.
What’s clear to see in Neymar: The Perfect Chaos is that this man, this legend, has been at the forefront of modern football, rising above the sport to create an instantly recognizable brand. Fans of The Last Dance, fans of football, and fans of the celebrity will find this to be a must-watch docu-series that pulls back the curtain to show the man beneath the footballer. A truly intoxicating whirlwind ride that captures the elemental force of a truly iconic player.
Neymar: The Perfect Chaos is available exclusively on Netflix January 25th, 2022.
Neymar: The Perfect Chaos
A truly intoxicating whirlwind ride that captures the elemental force of a truly iconic player.