Barcelona forward Neymar will “go on to become the best player in the world”, according to Brazilian legend Rivaldo.
Neymar enjoyed arguably his finest individual season at the Camp Nou in 2015-16, scoring 31 goals in all competitions as Barcelona sealed a second consecutive domestic double of the La Liga and Copa Del Rey.
The 24-year-old also formed a formidable partnership with Luis Suarez while Lionel Messi was ruled out for two months between September and November, the duo scoring all 14 of Barca’s goals between them during a five game spell.
This prompted some to suggest Messi’s status as the world’s greatest could soon come under threat and Rivaldo (below), who won the prestigious Ballon D’Or award in 1999 while plying his trade at the Camp Nou, believes his compatriot has everything it takes to dominate the world game.
“He is a great player and is making a name for himself in the world of football,” Rivaldo said at a sponsorship event marking Barcelona’s partnership with Konami as reported by the club’s official website.
“He will go on to become the best player in the world.”
However, Neymar ended the campaign overshadowed and outscored by Messi (41) and Suarez (59), leaving him joint-sixth in SkyBet’s odds for the 2017 Ballon D’Or, level on 33/1 with Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba.
Meanwhile, critics continue to question the former Santos stars’ temperament, harking back to countless other would-be ‘next Peles’, such as Adriano and Robinho (below), who failed to fulfil their vast potential in recent years.
According to Marca, the Brazilian Football Federation were considering stripping Neymar of the captaincy earlier this year due to concerns about his attitude after a needless yellow card picked up against Uruguay ruled him out of a crucial World Cup qualifier with Paraguay.
Neymar had missed a quarter of Brazil coach Dunga’s 22 games in charge at that stage and had the worst disciplinary record of any player in the national squad.
A huge test of Neymar’s disposition arrives in the form of the Rio Olympics this month, with Brazil desperate to win the tournament on home soil.
“(Neymar) must have extra emotional control, because he knows his importance to the Seleção,” former Brazil international and Middlesbrough attacker Juninho told Omnisport yesterday.
“He is unique, but he needs emotional control.”
Neymar’s previous two tournaments have ended in huge disappointment.
A serious back injury ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup (below) prior to Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 thrashing by Germany and, in last year’s Copa America, Neymar was sent off in disgrace after head-butting Colombian defender Jeison Murrillo in the aftermath a 1-0 defeat.
'I did make a mistake,” Neymar explained after the game, as reported by the Daily Mail.
“But, it's part of the game. We lost and I believe we played badly. I didn't play well either. I acknowledge that and take full responsibility on what happened today.”
Neymar must learn to right these wrongs if he is to fulfil Rivaldo’s prophecy.