Brazil and Barcelona FC footballer Neymar Jr, widely lauded as Brazil’s leading player, has been named as a brand ambassador for Amaya’s PokerStars.

Neymar, who is captain of Brazil, will feature in PokerStars' advertising and charitable events, and will also make special appearances in live and online poker tournaments. The operator will be able to leverage the player’s large social media following, which includes 18m Twitter followers and 51.2m Facebook fans.

“Neymar Jr is one of the brightest stars in the sporting world and PokerStars is proud to be associated with him,” PokerStars interim chief executive Michael Hazel commented. “Together we will grow the popularity of poker and show new audiences the competitive, fun and strategic game of poker.”

“Working with Neymar Jr continues PokerStars' history of investing in mainstream athletes who want to leverage their success in competitive sports to become successful poker players.”

PokerStars claims that Neymar is a passionate poker player, even owning a dog called Poker.

Amaya chairman and chief executive David Baazov described signing up Neymar as an investment to help grow the appeal of poker worldwide.

“Neymar Jr is a young and extremely charismatic megastar who loves interacting with fans on social media, is comfortable on camera and loves the game of poker," Baazov said. “And as a superstar with one of the world's most famous football clubs and football nations, his appeal is global. This partnership is a great opportunity to market the game of poker across the globe and attract new fans.”

“Growing up and playing football everyday has made me a competitive person,” Neymar commented. “When I'm not playing football, playing poker and competing against my teammates on the road or in home games with friends is one of my favourite things to do.”

He joins a number of high-profile athletes promoting PokerStars, including former footballer Ronaldo, tennis player Rafael Nadal and Dutch Olympic gold medal-winning field hockey player Fatima Moreira de Melo.