There is nothing that can be done. It’s April 2015, and three members of FourFourTwo are waiting for Neymar in the Camp Nou’s vast atrium. Morning turns into afternoon, and two hours turns into three. Nothing has changed.
We’re in Barcelona for a six-month photoshoot and conversation with the Brazilian forward ahead of the Copa America this summer. Nike staffers, who are becoming increasingly agitated, check in every half hour and replenish a table of cured meats, pasta salad, and pastries. “He definitely knows about today,” one person adds. After a few hours, the news is: “We’ve sent someone to get him.”
At 9 p.m., Neymar and his dozen-strong entourage arrive, blaring Brazilian singer Michel Telo’s hit Ai Se Eu Te Pego on portable speakers as they enter. They’re nine hours late, and we’re told that some high-powered negotiations with Nike executives were required to pry the group away from a BBQ at his estate in Castelldefels, a few miles down the Catalan coast. This is FourFourTwo’s introduction to Los Toiss, a contentious group of six (often more) buddies, ex-teammates, and fixers ranging in age from 26 to 30 who exist as moons to serve planet Neymar.
Neymar’s longest friend and the closest thing he has to a brother, having grown up together in one of Sao Paulo’s poorest neighborhoods. Gilmar Cebola Araujo has known Neymar since they were teenagers and works on his marketing alongside one of his agent-turned-lawyer Wagner Ribeiro. Gustavo Almeida met Neymar when they were 12 years old and played futsal with at Santos. He now selects (mostly Brazilian) music musicians for his celebrity friend’s NRSports organization, alongside Cristian Guedes, another Toiss original.
Guilherme Pitta is the group’s party planner, organizing the group’s nighttime activities. The only time he didn’t deliver exactly what was expected was when he asked Los Toiss’ favorite casino to send a table to Neymar’s house so they could play all-night poker, which was illegal. Instead, a croupier was dispatched by the casino.
They were just these five in 2013, when Barcelona welcomed their £75.1 million arrival from Santos with open arms. Alvaro Costa joined Barça’s team in Catalonia as his personal assistant. Costa grew up in Rio de Janeiro and worked in sports marketing for Nike. He speaks fluent Portuguese. Despite being more than two decades the Argentine’s senior, his father Pepe is Lionel Messi’s personal minder and closest friend, with the Costas hoping to establish a true bond between their two most visible players. Barcelona’s difficulty was that Alvaro Costa and Neymar got along so well that when the Brazilian departed for PSG, Costa followed.
A Toiss casual apparel line, founded by an honorary member named Ciao, has signed a handful of Brazilian celebrities, including Robinho and, you guessed it, Neymar.
Los Toiss are paid between €4,000 and €6,000 per month for all of this, including being tossed into swimming pools while semi-catatonic after a house party (as stated by numerous Spanish publications). If their pay are not included in his club deal, Neymar will not join. On their forearms, each member has a different letter of the word ‘amigos’ tattooed. In many ways, it’s to his credit that he’s dispersing his fortune to his closest friends and saving some from a life of poverty.
If you want Neymar to do something, you’ll need Los Toiss on your side. They have the day-to-day relationship, his ear, and his confidence, and the gang takes use of it. They all live in the same house with him. They accompany him to away games, usually on private jets, but often on chartered club flights. They plan his nights out. When he chuckles, they laugh. They dance whenever he dances, which is often because Neymar enjoys a good social media flash mob. They determine when he’s bored, like the Emperor’s New Clothes in football. It was a few of hours later on that day in 2015 with FourFourTwo. Barcelona was given four years. Paris Saint-Germain appears to be only two.
The man himself is remarkably accommodating, polite, and patient for one of the world’s top footballers. More than others, he actively participates in what is going on, who is doing it, and makes a point of personally introducing himself to everyone. He understands that his image sells and that everything he says is scrutinized all across the world.
Neymar Snr (the only person who can make his son alter his mind on anything), lawyer Ribeiro, and chief negotiator Pini Zahavi deal with contracts and clubs, but not with Neymar’s easy state of happiness. That’s how his brand operates, particularly on social media – the sweet art of doing nothing and having fun. Nike, Gillette, Panasonic, Red Bull, Replay Jeans, Police Sunglasses, and others all contribute generously.
Taking their name from ‘Eh Tudo Toiss,’ a song by Brazilian pop artists Henrique & Diego that is a colloquial way of saying “we’re us,” they are so close to Neymar Padrone that the Spanish press has long referred to them as paisanos. In 2016, Barcelona attempted to curb the Toiss’s influence, dissatisfied with their star’s daily schedule of playing poker all night, going straight to training, sleeping until 9 p.m., and then getting back on the cards. Within a year, Neymar had left. PSG players and staff are alleged to have grown tired of their presence at the Camp des Loges training facility, a privilege that no one else has.
On the days when Neymar does appear – in France, he always gets a week off around his February birthday, with the entire squad expected to attend his Toiss-organized celebration before returning to training the next day. Even the original desire of being at the center of the Paris social scene is no longer sufficient. Neither is being photographed in nothing but a towel for Vogue by famed photographer Mario Testino, who has previously photographed Madonna, Kate Moss, and Princess Diana for the magazine. They want to leave. Hell hath no fury like a scorned Toiss.
The Toiss will gather for a photo opportunity once the deal is completed – they earned €200,000 when he joined PSG. It was on the Parc des Princes pitch two years ago, and in 2013 it was in the Camp Nou dugout with bespoke ‘Toiss 11’ shirts.
What appeared unthinkable two years ago is suddenly a possibility, and Neymar might return to Barcelona. Los Toiss had a significant role in making the purchase possible. Despite some early resentment, the friendship between Alvaro and Pepe Costa has assured that Messi and Neymar continue to see each other on a regular basis and that the prodigal son will be welcomed back into the Barça dressing room.
That is the issue for Barcelona’s directors. You have to dance with the devil to obtain what you want – and Barcelona desperately needs Neymar’s chaotic talent. You can’t have one without the other, for better or worse.