SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Neymar’s new blonde ‘spaghetti’ haircut might have got tongues wagging in Russia but the world’s most expensive player is hoping his footwork has the same effect when Brazil kick off their World Cup campaign against Switzerland on Sunday.
Four years after Brazil were humiliated on home soil - when they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals - the Paris St Germain striker said he was “dreaming big” in Russia.
“The big day is here, after four years I am playing in a World Cup again,” Neymar said on Instagram ahead of the Group E match.
“What an honour to play for my country and go looking for a big dream.”
“The dream is ours and I am not at all afraid to dream big.”
Neymar was one Brazil’s top performers at home four years ago but he was injured in the quarter-final by a brutal foul from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga.
He suffered a fractured vertebra and missed the semi-final mauling by Germany.
Since then, he has become the most expensive footballer in the world and one of the biggest names in sport – 95 million people follow him on Instagram and another 60 million on Facebook.
His on-off romance with a Brazilian soap opera star, his flamboyant social life and his endless new looks and haircuts have kept him in the news, which is exactly where he wants to be when he is not kicking a ball.
But that visibility has come with criticism and his latest haircut, a dyed blonde semi-perm, has provoked hilarity.
While some people suggested he had “dumped a bowl of spaghetti on his head”, there were also memes doing the rounds in which he was compared with Ronaldo, whose famous almost skinhead look in 2002 was roundly ridiculed.
Neymar had an Instagram answer for that, posting another video for his detractors.
Taken while he sits back in a salon getting his locks washed, he looks at the camera and uttered only one word: “Shhh…”
Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Pritha Sarkar