SAO PAULO, Brazil – Neymar won’t win the World Cup three times in his career the way Pelé did. But at least, he approaches O Rei as the historical scorer of the Brazilian team.
The Paris Saint-Germain star came close to nine goals from Pelé, after scoring one on Thursday, in a 4-0 defeat of Peru in the Copa América.
FIFA statistics place Pelé in the first place of the scorers for Canarinha, with 77 goals. Neymar adds 68 after getting the second of his team against the Peruvians.
“Obviously it is a great honor for me to be part of the history of Brazil,” Neymar said through tears during an interview in which he paused several times to keep from crying, after the victory at the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
“To be honest, my dream was to play for Brazil, to wear this shirt. I never imagined that it would reach these numbers.”
“It is something very emotional for me, because I have been through a lot during these last two years, complicated things. These numbers are nothing compared to the happiness I feel when I play for Brazil.”
Neymar has suffered various injuries, lost a Champions League final to PSG in 2020 and had to deal with a sexual assault charge that was later dismissed as false.
The Argentine coach regretted that “the only sport reactivated is professional football” and it is not yet known when child and youth football will return, which he believes can cause “greater psychological or emotional damage, because sport is also health.”
Pelé, who has followed Neymar’s career since his first youth appearances at Santos, posted a photo of the two on Instagram.
“Whenever I see this boy he is smiling. It is impossible not to smile with him. It’s contagious. I, like all Brazilians, am always happy when I see him play football,” said Pelé.
“Today he took another step towards my goal record with the national team. And I am among those who encourage him to get there, with the same joy that I have since I saw him play for the first time.”
Tite, the coach of Brazil, does not like to compare Neymar with Pele. However, he acknowledges that his 29-year-old manager is extraordinary.
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“It really has something unique. He developed his talent for passing, his right leg, his left leg. It became unpredictable,” said the strategist on Sunday, after the 3-0 win over Venezuela.
Tite works on a system that brings Neymar closer to the goal and gives him more protection.
“That’s where the adversaries put pressure on him the most. They can commit a foul in an important place ”, explained the coach. “We structure our team so that he can … be more effective at creating.”
Under FIFA criteria, Pelé set his record in 92 matches, while Neymar has played 107.
The official figure from the Brazilian Football Confederation, which includes some matches against clubs, places Neymar 28 goals behind Pelé.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.