Sao Paulo: Neymar might not win three World Cups in his career like Pelé did. However, Neymar is closing in as the top goalscorer ever for Brazil’s national team. The difference between Pele (77 goals for Brazil) and Neymar (68) has now been reduced to nine after Brazil’s 4-0 win over Peru in the Copa America tournament. Neymar scored one of the four goals for Brazil.
“It is obvious for me that this is a great honour, to be a part of Brazil history,” a tearful Neymar said in an interview full of squeaky tones. He was talking to reporters after Brazil’s victory at the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
“To be very honest, my dream was to play for Brazil, wear this shirt. I never imagined I would get to these numbers. It is very emotional to me because I went through a lot of difficult and complicated things over these last two years. These numbers are nothing compared to the happiness I have playing for Brazil,” Neymar added.
Neymar has had several injuries. He lost a Champions League final with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2020. He also had to deal with a sexual assault allegation that was later proved false.
Pelé has followed Neymar’s career since the younger man’s first appearances at Santos. He published a picture of the pair on Instagram. “I, like all Brazilians, am always happy when I see him play ball. Today he took another step toward my record of goals for the Selecao. And I am cheering for him to get there, with the same joy I have since I saw him play for the first time,” 80-year-old Pelé said.
Brazil coach Tite doesn’t want to the superstar players, but he does say the 29-year-old Neymar is extraordinary. “He has a really personal thing; he developed his skills to give assists, his right foot, his left foot. He became unpredictable,” Tite said after the 3-0 win against Venezuela last Sunday.
Tite is working on a system to give Neymar space closer to the goal and more protection. “That’s where the adversaries fear pressing him harder, they could give a foul in an important place,” Tite said. “We structured our team so he can … (be) more efficient to create.”
Under FIFA’s criteria, Pelé got his record after 92 matches, while Neymar has already played 107.