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Jun 28, 2014

Pele told Neymar to reject Chelsea

Neymar is the face of Brazil. Can he burden the pressure that comes with it and lead his country to glory?

Neymar has revealed how Pele helped persuade him to turn down a move to Chelsea and stay with Santos four years ago.

Neymar, aged just 18 at the time, was the subject of a big transfer offer from the then Premier League champions, managed by Carlo Ancelotti, in August 2010.

But the player opted to stay with his Brazilian club and later that season Chelsea moved to sign Fernando Torres from Liverpool for 50 million pounds.

Santos used the legend of Forumula 1 driver Ayrton Senna to make sure they kept hold of the teenage superstar, before their former player Pele made the call.

In his book, "Neymar: My Story," which is being serialised in the Daily Mail, he said: "My father and I had a meeting with president Luis Álvaro at the Santos headquarters, inside the Vila Belmiro [Santos' ground]. Chelsea had made a huge transfer bid. In the middle of our conversation, the president turned off the lights and pointed at an empty chair.

"'This is the chair of the great national sports hero. Since Ayrton Senna's death, this chair is vacant. If Neymar Jnr stays in Santos and refuses Chelsea's proposal, he will give his first step to sit in this chair.'

"That made us think. That decision would be a turning point in my life. Even Pele called me. Can you imagine how important I felt? The King of Football called and asked me to stay.

"He reminded me of his entire career with Santos, his five world titles with the national team and the club, and all the recognition he received. It wasn't easy but it was the right decision for us. We did the right thing for our family, friends and my career."

The striker also revealed how he turned his back on a contract with Real Madrid at the age of 14 after struggling to adapt to life in Spain at such a young age.

"After 19 days, he scored 27 goals at the training sessions," his father explained. "Within the first three days, we had agreed on everything. The contract was written. Juninho [Junior, as Neymar is known to his family] and his sister, Rafaela, were to receive scholarships. The only thing missing was his mother's signature. Nadine had a ticket to go to Europe with me and Juninho, but preferred to stay at home with our daughter.

"After less than a week, Juninho didn't seem well. He started to feel homesick. He missed our family, our friends, his school, his city and Santos. He missed everything. The food was all right, but we really wanted to eat our good old rice and beans. No money can pay for that. I saw Neymar Jnr become sadder each day that passed. Even with everything Madrid were doing for us, I felt the moment wasn't right. And Juninho agreed. So, we decided to fly back to Santos.

"I didn't care we were abdicating from so much money. All I wanted was for him to continue to play with joy. And there was no joy on those days. No money could ever change that."

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