Brazil superstar Neymar is in line to make his highly anticipated Al Hilal debut on Friday, in a derby match against Al Riyadh.
Neymar, 31, joined Al Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain for €90 million last month but a minor injury has meant his new fans have had to be patient as they wait for a first glimpse of him in action.
The Hilal faithful are not the first group of supporters who have been desperate to see Neymar in action. The Sao Paulo-born forward's debuts have always been heavily hyped occasions. Here we look at how they have played out over the years. Spoiler alert: They tend to go quite well.
Santos 2-1 Oeste Futebol Clube
Date: March 7, 2009. Age: 17.
By the time he made his Santos debut, Neymar was already earmarked for greatness. Less than a month after his 17th birthday his career in the senior ranks began as he was brought on for the last 30 minutes in a 2–1 win against Oeste. It was almost a dream start for the fresh-faced newcomer, who was only denied a debut goal by the crossbar.
“Football is a mixture of seriousness and fun. I have to keep playing the same way, because my time will come,” Neymar said after the game, the first words spoken to a ravenous Brazilian media soon to obsess over his every move. “Before entering, the people who were in the bank talked to me and calmed me down. When the ball rolled, I tried to show my football and almost scored. It was bad luck! The ball took the crossbar, but next time it will come.”
He was right. The following week he scored his first goal for Santos, against Mogi Mirim. One month later, on April 11, he scored the decisive goal in a 2–1 win against Palmeiras in the 2009 Campeonato Paulista semi-final. In his first season, Neymar racked up 14 goals in 48 games.
Final Santos Record: Played: 139; goals: 72; assists: 37.
Barcelona 7-0 Levante
Date: August 18, 2013. Age: 21.
Neymar made his competitive debut for Barcelona in the opening game of the 2013/14 La Liga season as a 63rd-minute substitute for Alexis Sanchez in a 7–0 win against Levante. By the time he entered the pitch, the game was already won – Lionel Messi (2) Pedro (2), Dani Alves, Xavi and Alexis Sanchez all scored – and Barca were toying with the opposition.
But a few days later he came up with a big goal in the 2013 Spanish Super Cup as he again came on as a substitute to head in Dani Alves' cross and make it 1-1 against Atletico Madrid. His first start for the club came away to Valencia where he assisted a Messi goal in a 3-2 win. A month later he made his Champions League debut and marked the occasion with a goal as Barca beat Ajax 4-0.
Final Barcelona record: P186; goals: 105; assists: 76.
Guingamp 0-3 Paris Saint-Germain
Date: August 13, 2017. Age: 25.
Neymar made his debut for PSG in their second game of the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season, having a hand in all three goals as the Parisians beat Guingamp 3-0 in Brittany.
The world record signing was instrumental in forcing an own goal before setting up a second for Edinson Cavani with a sublime pass. He then stabbed in a first for the club with eight minutes remaining.
“It is always very important to score, not just in the first game. I am very calm,” he said afterwards. “This is a very big challenge for me as a person, but we have a great team and the season has just started.”
The following week he added two more on his home debut in their next Ligue 1 fixture, against Toulouse. The goals in Paris kept coming and he scored in each of the club's opening two Champions League games, helping them to wins over Celtic and Bayern Munich.
Final PSG record: P173; goals: 118; assists: 77.
Brazil 2-0 USA
Date: July 26, 2010. Age: 18.
After making a blistering start to his Santos career, the clamour grew for Neymar to go to the 2010 World Cup. Pele and Romario led the calls but pragmatic coach Dunga ignored them and also a 14,000-signature petition, claiming he was too inexperienced. Brazil lost to the Netherlands on penalties in the quarter-finals and Dunga was sacked.
His replacement, Mano Menezes, immediately picked Neymar and he made his debut against the USA in East Rutherford, New Jersey. After 28 minutes he headed in Andre Santos' cross to help the Selecao on their way to a 2-0 win.
When he finally did make it to the World Cup, in 2014 in his homeland, Neymar scored twice on his tournament debut as the hosts beat Croatia 3-1. With 77 strikes for his country, he currently needs just one more goal to surpass Pele's all-time mark.
Brazil record: P124; goals 77; assists: 56.
Career total so far: P622; goals: 372; assists: 246.
Neymar's record on debut, club and international: P4 W4 D0 L0; goals 2, assists 1; team goals for: 14, against: 1.