2017 Yearender: The sports desk's picks - 18 of our favourite moments

True heart of a football genius

As Brazil's footballers trudged off the Wembley pitch before their friendly game with England last month, a playground trick was caught by the camera and captured the soul of a talent like Neymar.

The 25-year-old had broken down in tears days earlier amid speculation of his unrest at new club Paris Saint-Germain, but was all smiles and jumping around in delight after performing a nutmeg on Selecao team-mate Gabriel Jesus after training had ended. It was payback in a game of one-upmanship. Jesus had done the same to Neymar in a previous training session.

In an era obsessed with inflated salaries and trophies, for that brief moment Neymar was not the world's most expensive footballer but resembled a kid from Sao Paulo, ball at his feet and impish cheek in his heart. It was the beautiful game at its purest.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2017, with the headline 'True heart of a football genius'. Print Edition | Subscribe