Lionel Messi believed he would be the best, David Beckham was struck by his humility, and Ronaldinho said he was ‘heir’ to his throne
Neymar is the Marmite of football – you either love him or hate him.
The Paris Saint-Germain ace is unquestionably one of the most talented players on the planet, but drama on and off the pitch often gets him into hot water.
Last week, the Brazil poster boy was at his scintillating best as he helped PSG to a dramatic comeback win over Atalanta to book their place in the Champions League semi-finals.
Despite setting up both goals and completing a remarkable record-breaking 16 dribbles in the match – the most any player had managed in a Champions League game since Lionel Messi in 2008 – the 28-year-old was criticised for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
“Is he a wonderful footballer? Yes. Is he overrated? Without question!” talkSPORT co-host Jason Cundy blasted.
“He’s the world’s most expensive player, right? He’s not even the best player at PSG! You’re talking about two totally different levels.
“Neymar, I see the flicks, the tricks, the piece of skill, but do I see a player in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo, and Mbappe? No I don’t.”
Another talkSPORT co-host, Jamie O’Hara, hit back at Cundy’s claims that the Brazilian is ‘overrated’, insisting he’d ‘walk into every Premier League team’ and any of the top sides in the world.
“Neymar starts in every single Premier League team,” said the former Spurs midfielder.
“He’s a match-winner, that’s what he does, his talent speaks for itself, he does things no one else can do.”
But what do other legends in football say about the much-maligned PSG winger? talkSPORT.com has delved into the archives to identify the best quotes about the former Barcelona ace….
The Netherlands icon believes Neymar has the talent to match Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when they hang up their boots but needs to continue working hard.
“He was a talent, still, talent alone is not enough – a lot of big players have talent – but really maximising that talent, working every day, mentally working on that talent every day, that is hard,” Davids remarked.
“It’s not easy and you see he’s maintained that and he’s stayed focused and now you see he is up there but he’s still not on that level of those two [Messi and Ronaldo].”
The Juventus and Portugal superstar knew Neymar was destined for the top when he saw him as youngster, even admitting he saw some of himself in the Brazil star.
“I like Neymar a lot,” he said. “He is a bit like me. He had some difficulties in getting used to his new environment at first, but I knew that he was going to succeed.”
When you’re getting plaudits from arguably the greatest player that ever lived, then you know you must have done something right.
“I think that with his quality and fitness, Neymar will become the best in the world,” Messi once said of his former teammate.
This legend was in no doubt that his compatriot was his ‘heir’ at both Barcelona and Brazil.
“Without doubt, Neymar is already my heir,” Ronaldinho said. “He is performing in that role and he has been for many years. He is a great player and he will be the face of Brazil for plenty of seasons to come.
“Neymar is a phenomenon. It’s nice to see a Brazilian continuing to make history and I think he can be the greatest in the world.”
The Barcelona legend and current Al Sadd boss praised Neymar for his knack of rising to the big occasion and playing with a smile on his face.
“He hasn’t just shown his quality but he has shown it in the big games like against Real Madrid – and that is where the big players really prove themselves,” the Camp Nou icon said.
“I think any questions that were asked of Neymar have been very clearly answered. There were many people asking how he would adapt to European football – but I think we have seen very clearly how he has adapted. He is a great player, has a very good attitude, and will go on to be the best player in the world.
“Neymar’s happiness blows me away. The guy plays without any pressure.”
Another one of the game’s greatest ever players said Neymar has similarities to Messi in his play.
“He is ready to deal with Messi and Cristiano. For me he should’ve been among the nominees for FIFA The Best award. Neymar is doing things in Barcelona that remind me of the early Messi’s years,” the World Cup winner said while the Brazilian was at the Camp Nou.
The Arsenal and Chelsea playmaker believes Neymar has striking resemblances to Netherlands icon Johan Cruyff in the way he plays.
“Neymar reminds me of Cruyff,” Fabregas said. “I could never see him play live, but Cruyff had an incredible change of pace, like him. He starts fast, slows suddenly and restarts with a lot of speed.”
Whilst many believe he can be overly-expressive on the pitch, Beckham was struck by Neymar’s humility when he met him.
The former England captain said: “It’s been clear ever since he signed for Brazilian team Santos at 17 that Neymar is an outstanding talent, a once-in-a-generation type of footballer who has fans on their feet whenever he gets the ball.
“I’ve always been struck by his humility. He’s respectful and wants to learn, which he proved when he arrived at Barcelona in 2013 to play alongside some of the game’s biggest stars.”