Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar created a stir by celebrating his goal in the 2-0 Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinal win at Amiens on Wednesday by balancing his boot on his head.
At the time, the Brazil international’s celebration following his successful 53rd-minute penalty appeared to be an opportunist bit of self-promotion to ensure maximum exposure for his new Nike ‘Puro Fenomeno’ signature Mercurials, which themselves are something of a tribute to his compatriot Ronaldo’s R9 model of old.
Neymar’s act appears to have been more than just a marketing stunt, though, as the 25-year-old revealed via Instagram shortly after the match that it was a birthday tribute to his friend Joao Celso Moraes.
“Anyone who knows Joao Celso Moraes knows what my celebration was about,” Neymar wrote. “Those who do not, take a look [at the pictures in his Instagram post] and you will understand.
“Congratulations brother, the best of wishes. We are in this together.”
Moraes, who is twice pictured in Neymar’s Instagram post balancing glasses of beer on his head, is based in Sao Paulo and — according to his Instagram profile — works for BBM Sports accessories and marketing, as well as GaGa Milano, who the Brazilian superstar already models for.
Call it cynical but considering Neymar’s new boots and Moraes’ marketing background, it appears that Wednesday’s celebration in Amiens had a convenient double meaning and will have no doubt pleased sponsors Nike, who enjoyed ideal product placement.
The American sportswear brand were not the only ones to benefit, though, because aside from Amiens goalkeeper Regis Gurtner’s first half red card for a wild tackle outside the box on Kylian Mbappe, Neymar’s boot stunt was the biggest talking point from an otherwise forgettable 90 minutes of football.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.