Gilberto Silva says Neymar is not on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but has the ability to “reach the peak”.
Barcelona forward Neymar, after scoring 39 goals in all competitions last season, has 13 goals in 14 games this campaign.
His form in front of goal has proved key for a Barcelona team that is top of La Liga despite being without Messi since late September due to a knee injury.
Neymar’s performances have also led Brazil coach Dunga to label the 23-year-old as better than Messi and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Silva, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, told the London Evening Standard: “Neymar’s doing well. He’s doing a great job for Barcelona. He can reach the peak.
“At the moment, he is not at the same level, but he is close to Messi and Ronaldo.”
Brazil face Argentina in a rescheduled World Cup qualifier on Friday. Dunga’s men have taken three points from their opening two games having lost to Chile and beaten Venezuela.
And Silva believes Brazil need to put the 7-1 drubbing in the 2014 World Cup semi-final at the hands of Germany on home soil behind them in order to ensure they progress to the 2018 tournament in Russia.
“Forget about Germany, they must concentrate on the World Cup,” he added. “That game was very hard. For everyone in Brazil. It will be with us forever, we’ll never forget.
“But the players must. They aren’t young men anymore. They need to move on. They need to use the frustration from that game.
“I don’t want to think they might not make it. I believe they will qualify but it won’t be easy.
“It’s never easy in South America, every game will be hard. They found that against Chile. But in this situation the players can grow up together.”