Barcelona star Neymar is well on his way to emulating the feats of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and one Brazil legend already thinks the winger has surpassed football’s golden pair in one key aspect of the game.
Messi and Ronaldo were the only two players to receive more votes than Neymar in the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or and the 24-year-old is the obvious heir to the Argentine’s throne as the greatest player in the world.
In just his third season in Spain, the Brazil captain is already recognised as a key component in Europe’s deadliest strike force - he is the ’N’ in Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ trio - an acronym for Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
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And Cafu, who captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002, has warned that the Selecao are in danger of becoming a one-man team.
The former AC Milan defender was quoted by FourFourTwo as telling reporters: “Looking at his technical skills, I would say Neymar is stronger than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo right now.
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“Neymar is the best Brazilian out there. He is on another level than the other Brazilians.
“But Brazil need a united team more than anything else. Only a united team can guarantee a strong Selecao.”
It’s an incredibly interesting argument, and there’s a case to be made for all three stars. Neymar is certainly the most skilful of the trio but his ball control doesn’t come close to Messi’s.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo has shown on numerous occasions a shooting technique to die for.
Perhaps Cafu was simply taking a fancy to Neymar because he wears the captain’s armband while on international duty, like the full-back once did.
Neymar is national hero
Back in his native Brazil, Neymar is held up as the national team’s shining light but his past two international tournaments have ended in disaster.
The 2014 World Cup, staged in Brazil, was expected to be Neymar’s tournament as a country pinned their hopes on the winger. But, in the quarter-final clash against Colombia, he broke a bone in his back competing for the ball with Juan Zuniga and was ruled out of the semi-final bout with Germany.
Neymar’s absence seemed to have a telling effect on Dunga’s team and they were battered 7-1 by the Germans.
Copa America woes
A year later, Brazil were well-fancied in their bid to win the Copa America. The tournament started well for Neymar - he scored and assisted a goal in a 2-1 win against Peru in Brazil’s opening game - but it would be the first of only two games for the former Santos man.
He was handed a four-match suspension for deliberately kicking the ball at Colombia’s Pablo Armero in Brazil’s second fixture.
It will be interesting to see whether Neymar can surpass Messi and Ronaldo’s legacy. A World Cup winners medal will help - neither Messi or Ronaldo have one - but he needs a Ballon d’Or title to cement his status as a great.