Despite being regarded as the heir to Lionel Messi’s throne, legendary footballer Pele believes Neymar does not have the quality of his Barcelona team-mate or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar forms a key part of Barcelona’s formidable front three – labelled ‘MSN’ – alongside five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and Luis Suarez, while he is the face of Brazil’s new generation as captain.
The 24-year-old, who scored 31 goals in all competitions last season, finished third behind Messi and Ronaldo in Ballon d’Or voting after helping Barca to the treble in 2014-15.
But countryman Pele – arguably the greatest player of all time – insisted Neymar is not in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo.
“I’ve known Neymar since he was little and many years ago his coaches told me he was very good,” Pele told Marca.
“That is so but he doesn’t have the quality of Ronaldo or Messi.
“If I had to say who the number one player is today, I would say Lionel. The Portuguese has a different style of play but the best is Messi, in my opinion.”
Asked about Neymar and whether he overplays the game at times, Pele added: “Not everyone does this – Zico didn’t and nor did Pele – so it’s not common to everyone.
“Each one has his own style. But you have to always respect your opponent, like Romario did for example.”