After scoring a wondrous strike in Barcelona’s recent 3-0 victory over Villarreal, the plaudits have continued to rain down on Neymar – with perhaps no bigger compliment coming from Rivaldo.
The former playmaker and 1999 Ballon d’Or winner, who also wore the shirts of Brazil and Barcelona with distinction, believes that his 23-year old compatriot deserves to win football’s ultimate individual accolade sooner rather than later.
Posting on his own Instagram account, Rivaldo lent his support, stating:
I want to say that I am very happy to see Neymar playing for Barcelona and wearing the number 11 jersey, which I know very well.
I do not know who will be the best in the world 2015, but in my humble opinion and respecting Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and others, Neymar deserves to be the best in the world.
Neymar is currently enjoying a phenomenal run of form for Barcelona, which, curiously, has coincided with the absence of Lionel Messi from the team due to injury.
Indeed the Brazilian ace has rose to challenge of taking on the responsibilities normally handled by the Argentine Number 10 – scoring 10 goals and giving 6 assists in the 10 games Messi has missed, not to mention almost doubling his number of touches and dribbles per match.
It is this kind of output which Spanish football expert Guillem Balague this week wrote about for Sky Sports:
In the absence of the injured Messi, Luis Enrique needed someone to step up and do at least some of the job that the he does for the team. But Neymar is a striker, while Messi is the more complete player.
He can play as a midfielder or a striker and you have to say Barca are a better team with Messi in the side. However, you have to say Neymar has got the ability to challenge to be the No 1 player in the world.
When Messi comes back, Neymar will humbly move back to the wide areas and start running without the ball. He will run in behind the opposition defences to make Messi better. It’s only logical because Messi is the best in the world.
Unlike Rivaldo, Balague stopped short of considering Neymar for the 2015 Ballon d’Or; however believes the Brazilian is certainly ahead of all other contenders now – and may even have to leave Barcelona if he is to seriously challenge Messi’s crown.
The next question is how long can Neymar keep doing this when he knows he has the ability to become the best?
What’s interesting is that he is now the second best player in the world, in my opinion. There’s Messi in first and now Neymar is in second. Cristiano Ronaldo is at a different level now. Basically he has peaked.