Leonard Thomas: In search of a Neymar spark
Touted as Brazil's next big thing, he is running out of time to live up to the billing
His country boasts of Ronaldo, who dripped elan and poured in goals at PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, and penned a remarkable story of rebirth that moved the world.
Ronaldinho was a witness, a dancing, all-smiling, world-beating menace himself who was the first to thrill us with the no-look pass in football.
They won the World Cup in 2002. Neymar has not got one.
In 1962, the game's biggest star went down injured in Chile and a country held its breath, but the "Little Bird" shrugged and said don't worry about a thing, as Garrincha propelled the nation to a second successive world crown without Pele's help.
Neymar could not deliver on home soil in 2014 and Brazil was overcome with grief.
I will watch him tonight when he earns his 100th cap at the National Stadium, looking for even the slightest hint that he actually cares about his craft, because it has become that way with Neymar.
Over the years, his grand performances have become fleeting, mostly there has been pouting, angry outbursts at bosses and football officialdom, wild partying and court cases, all while he struggled to control matches on the pitch and desperately turned to embarrassing dives and all manner of histrionics to try and assert himself.
A boy produced an otherworldly performance in 1958 and no 17-year-old will ever throw up such an extraordinary mix of guile, calm and fearlessness like Pele did when he sparked Brazil to their first World Cup triumph.
It was the first of three for him. Neymar has almost certainly only one more shot at winning Brazil a sixth trophy.
Flush with money, maybe Brazil's most gifted player of his generation will forever be distracted and that would be a tragedy because all of us who are hopeless romantics would want a rags-to-riches tale to end in tears of joy.
When Brazil walk out tonight to face Senegal, the 27-year-old will not even be the best player on his team because Roberto Firmino has been a joy to watch for Liverpool, picking apart defences with a stunning repertoire of flicks and tricks, adroit passing and astute running.
Brazil coach Tite and the rest of his countrymen can only pray Neymar will decide to buckle down as the clock winds down to the 2022 World Cup.
Of them all in Brazil today, he is the player with the singular ability to rule matches.
Gifted with pace, silky smooth feints and even silkier dribbling skills, and an unerring eye for goal - he boasts a mind-boggling 61 goals in 99 matches for Brazil - Neymar should already have created a space for himself at the summit of today's game alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Alas it remains a case of what could be for the Brazilian, while the Argentine and Portuguese continue to stare down over all that they rule.
Romario occupied that space for a while. The striker put all his skills on display to end Brazil's 24-year World Cup drought in 1994 in the United States.
With the greatest collection of stars ever assembled, Brazil circa 1970 continue to be the standard bearers for football teams.
Their work in Mexico brought joy everywhere and, even today, there are many fans who can rattle off all 11 starters in the 4-1 final win over Italy.
Felix, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele and Rivelino are shining lights in Brazil's pantheon. Neymar has not even threatened to join them.
Led by Zico and also boasting Socrates, Falcao, Junior and Eder, Brazil's class of 1982 made the world swoon again and, even after an almighty shock that continues to reverberate today, those players surely have the key to the main hall where the country's greatest footballers sit and dine.
Brazil and her players decorate football's record books and it is not a surprise because the sport matters to the nation more than any other. It is intoxicating and I am a lifelong fan.
It is why Neymar's difficulties in the yellow and blue are particularly jarring. Brazil need his sparkle if they are to conquer the world again in 2022.
A friendly is not going to tell us much but, after Neymar's positive start at Paris Saint-Germain this season, there is reason to hope he can live up to the hype that accompanied him as a teen.
The venue at Kallang is not holy ground like the Maracana, the Azteca or Wembley, but Neymar remains the greatest individual performer there after he scored all four goals in 2014, when Brazil thrashed Japan.
The hope is that, even in the slightest way, the Singapore stage can help rekindle Neymar's love affair with the game and reignite his ambition to get to football's summit.
"My last time here with the national team, I scored four goals and I expect that tomorrow I can score more and Singapore will give me luck again."
- Neymar, on scoring all the goals
in Brazil's 4-0 win over Japan at the National Stadium in 2014
"Yeah, I believe that
(I can be the best
in the world). Unfortunately these last two years, I had two serious injuries and the recovery took too long."