A man who once played alongside the talented forward at Santos believes he can top the achievements of two iconic countrymen
Neymar is not yet at the level of Ronaldinho and Kaka but boasts the potential to eclipse the efforts of two iconic fellow Brazilians, claims the 29-year-old’s former Santos team-mate Leo.
A superstar performer currently on the books of Paris Saint-Germain has been a leading light for his country since bursting onto the scene as a talented teenager in 2009.
A standing among the modern-day elite has been cemented, having thrived at Barcelona and with PSG, but World Cup glory has proved elusive and Neymar remains without a much-coveted Ballon d’Or in his trophy collection.
What has been said?
The absence of a Ballon d’Or and global glory with the Selecao is keeping Neymar sat behind some illustrious names on Brazil’s roll of honour, but time is still on his side.
Leo believes a place among the greats can be secured, telling Goal: “I think I’ve faced Ronaldinho during the best moment of his career and the same applies to Kaka.
“I think Neymar hasn’t reached that level yet, but he can go even further than that. He has a lot more to still give.”
What did Ronaldinho and Kaka achieve?
Two of the finest playmakers to emerge from Brazilian football graced the very top of the game during their respective careers.
Ronaldinho was named World Player of the Year on two occasions, landing the Ballon d’Or in 2005, and sparkled for PSG, Barcelona and AC Milan while earning 97 caps for his country.
He formed part of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning squad alongside Kaka, who claimed a Ballon d’Or of his own while starring for Milan in 2007.
Can Neymar hit those heights?
Neymar will get another shot at World Cup glory, fitness permitting, in 2022 and may yet force his way back into contention for a Ballon d’Or after previously claiming two third-place finishes in that annual poll.
It remains to be seen where he will be playing his club football while chasing down those accolades, with serious questions being asked of his future at present.
PSG have been unable to extend a contract that is due to expire in 2022, leading to suggestions that Neymar could soon be on the move.
A return to Barcelona has been mooted, while the South American has also hinted that he would like to be joined in France by former Blaugrana colleague Lionel Messi – who is running down his own deal at Camp Nou.
Leo, who worked with Barca boss Ronald Koeman at Benfica, believes a mercurial Argentine may be tempted to take on a new challenge alongside familiar faces in Paris.
He added: “It’s not only Koeman, it’s the history that he (Messi) has with the club.
“He will not think only about his coach’s words, he will think about all the history he’s constructed there.
“If you talk about Messi you’re going to talk about Barcelona. But Neymar’s importance is very big, sure. And not only Neymar: they (PSG) have Leandro Paredes, Angel di Maria, everyone there is trying to attract him.”