Supreme Neymar reinforces Pele claims

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Neymar became Santos' top goalscorer in the post-Pele era on Thursday evening, in a display demonstrating his remarkable talents to devastating effect.

The young Brazilian may have some distance to go before he can even near the goalscoring feats of arguably the game's greatest ever player, but 106 strikes represents a fine achievement at such an early stage in his career.

Pele found the net an incredible 1087 times in 1120 matches for Santos and, while Neymar will never reach such ridiculous heights, he could eventually be held in the same regard as his mentor, should he continue his upward trajectory.

Neymar, says Pele, is already a more complete player than Lionel Messi and, while the 71-year-old may be slightly deluded on this matter, there is no doubt that the former can develop into the best footballer on the planet.

Aged only 20 and already with a century of goals to his name, Neymar certainly has a solid foundation from which to propel himself into the stratosphere, and his performance on Thursday against Bolivar was one of undoubted genius.

Santos had lost the first leg of their Copa Libertadores encounter 2-1 a fortnight ago, but Neymar almost singlehandedly ensured his side progressed into the last eight of the competition.

The young forward scored twice and provided a further five goals as Santos destroyed Bolivar 8-0 and, in doing so, surpassed Joao Paulo and Serginho Chulapa in the annals of the club's history.

"I'm glad to be making history with Santos and to be doing what other great players did in the past,'' Neymar told reporters after the game. "I'm happy to be part of this history.''

Former Manchester City midfielder Elano opened the scoring against the Bolivian opposition, latching onto a Neymar header, before the latter netted a penalty and provided a pass for Ganso to score spectacularly.

Karece made the score 4-0 with only 30 minutes gone, before Neymar was on hand to divert a cross from Juan to further extend the advantage for Peixe.

Neymar turned provider once more for Elano's second goal of the evening, before he won a free-kick, which allowed Ganso to complete his brace from range.

Ganso set-up the eighth for Borges - but only following some nice work from Neymar - to complete the rout, while Santos fell only one goal short of their biggest ever Copa Libertadores victory.

There are few in Brazil doubting that Neymar is, or at least can be, the best player in the world - superior even to Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo - particularly given Pele's endorsement of the fleet-footed forward.

Yet, it is the next step that Neymar makes that will temper whether or not superstardom will be confined to mainly the country of his birth, or the football world as a whole.

To be classed as the game's best modern player, or to even contemplate laying claim to the title of the finest ever, Neymar must move to European football in order for his credentials to be tested at the highest level.

To his credit, Neymar has been willing to stay loyal to Santos, but it is only a matter of time until Europe's most prominent clubs come calling, and a transfer to either Real Madrid or Barcelona surely beckons.

Such has Santos' desperation been to keep Neymar at the Vila Belmiro, they had to shut down both their futsal and female football teams in order to generate funds to retain his services.

Yet, the riches of the European superpowers and and the player's inevitable wishes to eventually leave the club will surely see him graduate to pastures new sooner rather than later.

Few players in the history of the game have possessed comparable talent to Neymar at such a young age. But can he become the best in the world? We will soon find out.

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