Neymar is “technically the best player in the world”, says Pele, with the Paris Saint-Germain forward one of only three “superstars” in the global game.
While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have enjoyed a duopoly of Ballon d’Or honours over the last decade, the Real Madrid and Barcelona icons now face fierce competition for the crown.
Brazil international Neymar is considered to be their closest challenger, with the 26-year-old now the most expensive player on the planet following a €222 million move to PSG.
He has impressed in France, netting 26 times in 29 appearances, and will once again shoulder the expectations of a nation at this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Pele believes Neymar is ready to deliver on such a stage and enhance his standing among the elite, with the Brazilian legend telling FIFA’s official website: “Neymar has changed the way he plays with the national team. He has had to.
“At his club side, he was playing as a left-sided attacker, whereas for Brazil, he plays more centrally, as a more traditional No. 10.
“He’s ready to lead this team, yes. He might find that the tactical switch from his club to the national team isn’t straightforward, but Neymar is Brazil’s key player.
“He has to prepare himself for that. And I would go further: for me, technically, he is already the best player in the world. I’m absolutely sure of that.”
There are plenty of other players ready to shine under the brightest of spotlights, such as PSG striker Kylian Mbappe and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, but Pele does not consider them to be at the very highest level just yet.
He added: “If you look around the world, the ones who stand out are Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. There are no other superstars.”
Neymar needs to prove that he is deserving of such a standing, with PSG looking for him to spark a Champions League revival against Real Madrid and land the Ligue 1 title before Brazil call on him to help lead the charge for a sixth World Cup crown.