Brazil football legend Pele has been a bit critical of FC Barcelona forward Neymar Jr, saying he does not have as much quality as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I’ve known Neymar since he was little and many years ago his coaches told me he was very good. That is so but he doesn’t have the quality of Ronaldo or Messi,” the Brazilian World Cup winner was quoted as saying in Spanish newspaper Marca.
While Neymar is considered as one of the best attacking players in the world, Messi and Ronaldo are the ones who still rule the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards every year. However, one thing that the Brazilian has on his side is age, and we can all expect him to get better at his game and maybe even surpass Messi and Ronaldo.
With Pele’s comments in mind, we came across a few stats that actually make quite the opposite point to what the Brazilian footballing legend suggested.
Better reading of the game
Both Messi and Ronaldo might have scored more goals than Neymar, but the Brazilian has shown a much better ability to read the game. Recovering the ball is one of the key aspects of Barcelona’s game, and Neymar is one player who puts this ability to great use, as he helped the Catalans win the La Liga.
In fact, Neymar (11) has made almost double the number of interceptions as Messi (six) in the 2015/16 La Liga campaign. This is a rare skill in forwards. However, when an attacker does manage to intercept the ball from his opponents, it is generally high up the pitch, which means there is a good chance of scoring a goal.
Better as a playmaker
The Brazilian has had a very good season as one of the top three in the Barcelona attack. However, Neymar has shown an aptitude for finding the right pass. This is a clear indication that Neymar has worked on his game in order to improve himself, as he had received a lot of criticism early on in his career for showboating.
Neymar has been a lot sharper with his passes, creating more than double the amount (101) of chances as Ronaldo (50) in the 2015/16 La Liga season. He (89) more than doubles Ronaldo’s 39 key passes as well, proving that he has the vision to pick out a teammate’s run.
Works harder to recover the ball
While Messi and Ronaldo have been entertaining the fans with their skills on the ball, Neymar has been working hard off it, in order to silence his critics. Operating on the left flank for Barcelona means that Neymar often has to cover up for fullback Jordi Alba, who has a tendency to soar up the pitch.
This has reflected in Neymar’s game, as he has made as many tackles during the La Liga season, as both Messi and Ronaldo put together. Work rate is a key part of Barcelona’s play, and this is something that has prevented many of the opposition’s attacks.