Neymar has hit out at the fans who criticised Lionel Messi and has backed his Barcelona teammate to remain the best player in the world ahead of the next Ballon d'Or ceremony, scheduled to take place on 9 January 2017.
With Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aged 29 and 31 respectively, Neymar is widely expected to take over the mantle as the number one player in world football over the next few years.
However, according to the 24-year-old Brazilian, Messi is still the beautiful game's top star and he doesn't understand the criticism the Argentine has received, especially from people in his homeland.
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When asked about the 2016 Ballon d'Or award at an event produced by Panasonic, one of his many sponsors, Neymar said: "For me it's still Leo (Messi), he's the best. Messi is important for football, for Barca and for Argentina."
He continued, "Argentina have a great team and will get back to winning ways, I'm sure. What's going on with Leo in his country (suffering criticism) also happened with me.
"Messi wasn't even playing in the games and he was criticised, it's something I don't understand. People who understand football don't know how to explain it. Leo's important for us."
Neymar to replace Messi as world's best?
As mentioned before, Neymar is significantly younger than both Messi and Ronaldo and he finished in third place behind that superstar duo at the most recent Ballon d'Or ceremony on the back of a fantastic 2015.
That said, the skilful forward insists that he is in "no hurry" to become the best player in the world and that he is concentrating on training well, improving his game and being as good as he possibly can.
"I'm in no rush to be the best in the world," he said. "I want to reach my best, for that reason I have to train and play every day, but to be the best in the world I'm not in a rush. I think I'm in my best moment, but I can still improve."
Commenting on where he sees himself being in ten years time, the ex-Santos hero explained, "I imagine I will be happy for everything I have achieved in my career and I hope I can win a World Cup."
Having inspired his country to Olympic glory in the summer, most notably by scoring the winning penalty in the Gold Medal match against Germany, Neymar has started this season with five goals in seven appearances for Barcelona.
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