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The mental world of...NEYMAR

Future 'world's best' or overhyped brat? Everybody has an opinion on Brazil's young sueprstar, and with a World Cup on home soil less than one year away, life is only getting crazier for Neymar.

It could have been a surreal dream sequence from a psychedelic 1970s movie, if it wasn't a modern-day football match. April 6, 2011, and Santos are 2-0 up in a crucial Copa Libertadores game against Chile's Colo Colo. The crowd at Santos' packed Vila Belmiro stadium are wearing plastic masks depicting the face of their star striker Neymar. He scores a beautiful goal and as the roof lifts off, Robinho, watching the game from near the touchline, hands him one of the masks. Neymar puts it on, upside down, and begins to celebrate.

Picture the scene: the most famous football star in Brazil, wearing an upside down mask with his own face on it, being cheered by thousands of delirious fans all wearing the same mask. Stranger than fiction.

But the celebration soon turns sour. Celebrating with a mask is against the rules; it's a yellow card offence. And as Neymar had already picked up a booking, he is sent off. Colo Colo pull two back but Santos still hold on to clinch the game 3-2.

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Words Dominic Phillips

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