When it comes to debating who’s the best football player in the world, the names Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are never far away.
But, after Pele’s claims that Neymar is actually better than the La Liga duo, a certain level of intrigue has surrounded the Santos starlet.
That interest has only grown further with the 20-year-old’s participation at this summer’s Olympic games, and sure enough the 18-cap international has delivered the goods for his country.
Expectation is at an all-time high in South America, with just two years to go until the 2014 World Cup, and four until the 2016 Olympic Games. Both events take place on home soild for the samba stars.
Neymar will be at the forefront of the Selecao’s quest for glory at both events, much like he has been this summer in London, and will be again tomorrow when Mexico look to stand in the way of their date with destiny.
For this Brazil side, made up largely of U23 players, it could be four golden years that culminates in glory in Rio. If that happens, then Neymar will be at the forefront, likely earning more genuine comparisons to the likes of Ronaldo and Messi.
At this stage, he’s not at the level of the ‘big two’. And, fortunately, he knows it.
Neymar appears to have a strong head on his shoulders, and admits that the Portuguese winger is an ‘idol’ he’s looked up to in the world of football since he started playing.
"I always regarded Cristiano Ronaldo as an idol. Since I started playing football, I always followed him. He is one of the best players in the world,” Neymar told reporters ahead of the Olympic Gold medal match at Wembley on Saturday.
“He and Lionel Messi are true inspiration to those who like football. Maybe it’s between them (the battle to be world’s best player)."
The battle between Messi and Ronaldo to become the world’s best player has certainly helped capture the imagination of football fans around the globe, and it appears Neymar is no different to the rest of us when struggling to split ‘the big two’.
However, Neymar’s aim will be to make it ‘the big three’ over the next few years, building his own reputation on the international stage before moving to one of Europe’s big clubs. It will only be a matter of time until that happens, with general suggestions that his transfer will take place after the 2014 World Cup.
Whether that will be to join Messi at Barcelona, only time will tell, but Neymar is certainly showing all the signs of a player on the up and ready to make the steps from great player to living legend.
Unsure of his skills? Check out the YouTube mash-up of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar’s skills, and have your say below…