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Neymar Just Showed He Will Never Be As Good As Ronaldo Or Messi

There has been a lot of talk over what will happen once Father Time takes his toll on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo; who will take their place? Many are quick to throw out names such as Pogba, Hazard, and Neymar. These names are all certainly nothing else than the most talented young players on the planet, but they are no Messi or Ronaldo. 

The drop off in quality that will occur when those two living legends retire will be define an era. There won’t be someone who takes their place, not outright, not in the same fashion. Who ever is next won’t be scoring 60 goals a year. They will not be making a fan in his seat gesture to those around him that he can’t believe his eyes. They will be great; they won’t be Messi and Ronaldo. 

Neymar knows this, there is no way he cannot. At 23 years of age, he is already one of the greatest players to ever represent the Brazilian National Team. In 64 appearances with the senior national team he has 44 goals, easily setting him on pace to be the top scorer in Brazil’s history. As spectacular as these accomplishments are, Messi and Ronaldo were still better players at the same age.

By the time Messi turned 23, he had already won the Ballon d’Or, and was on his way to three more for an unprecedented 4 in a row. Ronaldo was in the middle of scoring 31 goals in 34 Premier League appearances at that age, thoroughly outpacing Neymar’s 22 in 33 La Liga last year, on a team that had talent across as many positions as today’s Barcelona. Ronaldo’s accomplishments at that age were enough to earn him World Player of the Year honors, and he went on to improve immensely as a player when he moved to Real Madrid at the age of 24.

Neymar has never won the Ballon d’Or and, simply put, if he was of the same caliber of player as Ronaldo or Messi, he would be realistically challenging for it this year. He is not, and has even said himself that can only hope to make the top 3. 

"This year the best in the world is no longer up for grabs," Neymar said after a recent Copa America match. "Messi deserves it, for all he has done. We will have to see if I can get into the top three."

The award is still half a year away from being handed out, and Neymar is already dismissing his chances of winning it. In doing so, he is dismissing his own chances of challenging Ronaldo and Messi at an age when those two had already established themselves as the best in the world. If he can’t challenge them on the pitch now, at a time when both Ronaldo (31 years old next season) and Messi (best ever 91 goals in 2012) are arguably past their prime — then he never will challenge their place in history once they have retired. This is an extremely unfair bar to hold Neymar up to, but that is the world that footballers live in. Messi and Ronaldo have set the bar at an extremely unfair height, because they are so unbelievably good.    

Those two are called once in a generation players for a reason, and we are incredibly lucky to have them both at the same time. Players of such quality, consistency, and success are incredibly rare, and, chances are, we will have to wait a very long time until we are able to watch the next one in action. 

Maybe, just maybe, with hard work and a fortuitous growth spurt of ability, Neymar can challenge their places in history. But, he will likely have to settle for what Messi and Ronaldo have relegated the rest of history’s great players to: the best of their time.  

Follow me on Twitter: @yetly

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