Neymar is doing everything he can to win the Ballon d’Or, according to Paris Saint-Germain teammate Marco Verratti.
Speaking to Globo Esporte ahead of the first leg of PSG’s Champions League round-of-16 tie with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, Verratti expressed his hope that Neymar will soon win football’s most prestigious individual accolade.
“Yes, I am behind Neymar [in trying to win the Ballon d’Or],” said Verratti. “I think that he is doing everything for it. It is also why he is here — to help the club to develop and to further himself too.
“There is greater responsibility here and ‘Ney’ is somebody who likes that. He likes putting the team on his shoulders.
“I hope with all of my heart that Ney will become the greatest player. We will help him however we possibly can to achieve this.”
Verratti went on to praise Neymar and declared his belief that the Brazil international is among the three best players in the world, and said that he is a friendly and down to earth individual away from the pitch.
“Neymar is a player like few others in world football,” Verratti said. “There are only two or three like him. With Lionel Messi, Barcelona are stronger. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid are stronger. In that same way, we here at PSG are stronger with ‘Ney.’
“I think that being lucky enough to have a player like ‘Ney’ has helped this team to grow. Everyone likes him — he is always smiling and loves his sport. Thanks to him, many children love football. He is also a player that is beautiful to watch in action.
“Away from the pitch, ‘Ney’ is a great guy and we have an excellent relationship.”
Verratti pities Real’s defence in trying to keep Neymar quiet in the Spanish capital on Wednesday and admitted that it was a nightmare coming up against him at this stage 12 months ago.
“Last campaign, Neymar was one of Barcelona’s best players,” he added. “He is a player that you hope will have an off match. If not, you stand very little chance of stopping ‘Ney.'”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.