Neymar has scored more goals at 23 than either Messi or Ronaldo had at his age

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It's often said that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are from a different planet when it comes to football in comparison to the rest of us mere mortals.

However, with the pair joined by Neymar Jr. on the three-man Ballon d'Or shortlist, is it time for the Brazilian to be considered more than just the best of the rest?

A few years ago it was Messi vs Ronaldo. Who scored more goals; who had more successful dribbles; who scored more from inside or outside the box? If a comparison between the two could be made, it already had been.


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However, as Neymar continues to lead the La Liga scoring charts with 14 goals so far this season, five ahead of Ronaldo and ten ahead of Messi, it's hard to deny the 23-year-old has the potential to match, if not surpass, his rival nominees.

In the graphic shown below, as per Marca, the Brazilian has scored over 60 more goals than Ronaldo had at his age across all competitions. Barcelona teammate Messi had scored 150 goals by the age of 23, 33 less than Neymar's tally of 183, though the Argentine had made 50 less appearances.

It's worth noting the report was published nearly a month ago, during which time Neymar has continued his rich goalscoring streak in Messi's injury absence and Ronaldo's lack of form. An argument could be made the Brazil captain scored a vast amount of his goals in a considerably weaker Brazilian league with Santos, but this is a minor detail.

Furthermore, alongside Uruguayan Luis Suarez, the winger carried his side while talisman Messi was sidelined. The two South Americans have scored 26 of the 33 goals the Catalans have managed this season, including a 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid two weeks ago.

Despite all three Ballon d'Or nominees' exceptional goalscoring records, their experience at international level leaves a lot to be desired - something they have to improve to be considered all-time greats.

Messi will always be in the shadow of Diego Maradona, Neymar to Pele, and Ronaldo to his Brazilian namesake until they are World Cup winners in their own right.

It's likely Messi will win the Ballon d'or after a sublime year, scoring 44 in 48 games and steering Barcelona to La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey last season.

But with Ronaldo now approaching 31, there's little doubt Neymar will be Messi's number one rival for the coveted award in the very near future.

La Liga
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo

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