For a long time in the history of the sport, the word ‘Brazilian’ had a particularly strong association with flair, pizzazz and daredevil ball-handling skills in the world of foot ball.
Having established himself as one of the highest-profile players in world football, football star Neymar, being Brazilian and immensely talented, has largely lived to the expectations and the hype that’ve followed him throughout his scintillating career.
While this elite status already comes with a greater than usual level of scrutiny, his nationality naturally compounded the pressure.
Neymar, considered the heir apparent to Pele’s legacy since he was a teenager, has done more than just a reasonable job of doing so.
But even with an enviable haul of club honours to his name, the Paris Saint-Germain star is reluctant to compare himself with any of Brazil’s finest – let alone the king himself.
“I can’t really decide who the second or first best player is after Pele,” Neymar told Goal.
“For me, we are all important. In the past I’ve said that every one of us has made history, every one played in a different way and every one has been important at a certain moment.
“There are names that will forever remain etched in history, there will always be important Brazilians in football. Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Kaka, Zico, Rivaldo – I could go on forever.
“There are many players who were important in their own unique way, that’s why it’s so difficult to just pick one.
“Roberto Carlos, for example, wasn’t an attacker but is still a player with an incredible story. So to me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to rank the best players in the ‘post-Pele era’.
“I have a lot of respect for the players who made history in the past, all the players that have been called up to the Brazil national team, because they are an example to me, they are my idols. Every single one of them is important.”
Although Neymar takes exception to putting Pele and himself in the same bracket at this juncture in his playing career, the former Barcelona striker appreciates he still has time to stake his claim as a genuine all-time great in his own right.
“I’m still writing my story. I’m only 27 years old and still have a few years ahead of me. It’s obvious that up until this point I’ve been able to reach some important milestones, but I have no intention to stop here.”