There will always be an age-old debate when it comes to the greatest footballer ever.
The discussion predominantly surrounds Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their goalscoring record and trophy hauls speak for itself but there are others that deserve mentions.
A fair few of them are Brazilian. Ronaldinho and Kaka won a Ballon d’Or before the dominant era of Messi and Ronaldo, but there is a different name striving every day to put himself in the conversation – Neymar.
The PSG forward scored a hat-trick for Brazil as they beat Peru 4-2 on Tuesday night and in the process, he moved beyond Ronaldo Nazario to second in the nation’s all-time top goalscoring list.
Neymar is now 13 strikes behind the great Pele and considering he’s still only 28, he should surpass him comfortably in the next few years.
That won’t necessarily make him the greatest Brazilian of all time, however. That’s unless he achieves some extraordinary individual and team honours before he retires.
There are no doubting Neymar’s qualities. He is one of the most mesmeric dribblers around and his flair is unparalleled with anyone in the game right now.
But despite going past Ronaldo’s goal tally for Brazil, the latter should still be considered the better player.
To help us some up why we’ve put together nine reasons. Here they are…
1. He’s won the World Cup
Let’s start things off nice and simply by saying that Neymar hasn’t won a World Cup yet, nor has he even come close to achieving such an accomplishment. Ronaldo, on the other hand, has won it twice – in 1994 and 2002 – while he also finished as runner-up in 1998.
Much of the ‘best ever’ debate centres around how well you do at international level too, and so far, Ronaldo trumps Neymar quite considerably.
2. He’s won the Ballon d’Or/FIFA POTY
It’s incredibly hard to be crowned the best player in the world when you’re playing in the same era as Messi and CR7, but the fact that Neymar hasn’t been able to usurp them quite yet says a lot about his stature compared to his fellow countryman, Ronaldo Nazario.
The Brazilian was crowned the Ballon d’Or winner in 1997 and 2002, as well as winning three separate FIFA Player of the Year awards. He genuinely is one of the best we’ve ever witnessed.
3. Best player at a World Cup
The Brazilian Ronaldo may not always display a picture of radiant health now he’s retired but during his playing days, he was a destructive force capable of performing on the biggest stages presented to him. He won the Golden Ball award at the 1998 World Cup and that was despite severely underperforming in the final after supposedly having a fit earlier in the day and being left off the initial teamsheet.
What really happened that day has been debated for years and there are multiple conspiracy theories surrounding the event.
4. 47 goals in one season for Barca
Have we ever seen Neymar score as many goals as this in a single season? The short answer is no. The Brazilian may usually play as a winger but he still knows where the net is and has scored close to 400 career goals. However, he hasn’t managed a season so impressive as R9 did in his career.
During his one season at Barcelona, the striker scored 47 in 49 outings. He was freakishly good.
5. He’s dominated a major final
Redemption. That’s what the 2002 World Cup final was about. After the bizarre circumstances of four years prior, Ronaldo lit up a major final in a way we’re yet to see Neymar do. He may have scored in a Champions League final, but his fellow countryman was a different beast altogether.
As Brazil won the tournament, Ronaldo scored both goals in the final during a 2-0 win over Germany. The strikes also came within 12 second-half minutes of each other. Deadly.
6. Better goals per game ratio
This is exactly what it says on the tin – Ronaldo’s goals per game record at the time of writing is better than Neymar’s. Now, you can point to the fact that R9 was a natural striker and Neymar is more of a winger, but to be considered the best, you have to beat the best.
The current Brazilian sensation has scored a goal every 0.61 matches, compared to the legend’s tally of 0.72.
7. World Cup record
We’ve already spoken about Ronaldo’s record at World Cup tournaments but he really is one of the best to contest the famous accolade.
Until Miroslav Klose surpassed him in 2014 with his 16th strike in the competition, Ronaldo was the highest scorer with 15 in World Cup finals. Currently, Neymar has just six so he has some way to go in order to match him.
8. 66 individual awards
Yep, read that and weep ladies and gentlemen. There is a reason Ronaldo Nazario is considered one of the greatest ever and that’s because he’s won just about every individual honour out there.
From golden boots and golden balls to being named in various Team of the Years, he is a marvel and even has a place in Real Madrid’s haul of fame. That’s just deserts.
9. He reinvented a whole position
Come back to us once Neymar has done this. He may be a technical genius but Ronaldo is a trendsetter, someone who transformed the way the striker and modern forward played the game of football.
Speaking about R9, Thierry Henry once stated: “Ronaldo did things nobody had seen before. He, together with Romario and George Weah, reinvented the centre-forward position.”
Henry added: “They were the first to drop from the penalty box to pick up the ball in midfield, switch to the flanks, attract and disorientate the central defenders with their runs, their accelerations, their dribbling.”
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