Argentina coach Gerardo Martino believes Brazil captain Neymar is on a par with Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals in 14 appearances in all competitions for Barca so far this season, helping the Camp Nou club to the top of La Liga, despite having Messi unavailable due to a knee injury since late September.
Neymar is available for Brazil when they travel to Buenos Aires to face Argentina in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday, having served a four-game suspension handed down for his actions in the meeting with Colombia at the Copa America.
And Martino – who coached the Brazilian during his first season at Camp Nou – believes his recent performances put him among the game’s elite.
“Neymar is at a superlative level. His return to the Brazil team comes at a great time,” the 52-year-old said.
“Every player needs time to adapt. I had to coach a very good Neymar, but what he is doing puts him at the level of the two players [Messi and Ronaldo] we considered above the rest.”
Argentina began their qualifying campaign with defeat at home to Ecuador before a goalless draw with Paraguay.
Martino is once again unable to call upon Messi, while Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are also absent due to injury, but the coach remains confident.
“It’s a relief for any team when they do not have to face certain players [Messi, Aguero, Tevez]. I do not think this makes Brazil the favourites,” Martino added.
“It is a derby and both teams have important players. The conditions are matched.”
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