Neymar has distanced himself from
remarks made by Brazilian great Pele claiming the Santos striker
is better than Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi.
A day after arriving in Japan for the Club World Cup, the
19-year-old Brazil striker quickly sought to defuse any friction
between Santos and tournament favourites Barca.
"I haven't come here to prove anything to anyone," Neymar,
who with his spiky mohican and ear piercings could not look more
different than the clean-cut Messi.
"I've always said Messi is the best player in the world,"
added Neymar, who has calmed down this year following run-ins
with team mates and an infamous Twitter rant telling a referee
he would "leave in a coffin."
"Stopping [Messi] playing is very difficult but we're
looking at ways to slow him down," Neymar told reporters in
Nagoya on Friday.
Neymar was strongly linked with several European clubs
including Barca and Real Madrid before agreeing to stay at
Santos until 2014 after helping them win the Libertadores Cup in
Santos were last crowned kings of South American almost 50
years ago when Pele inspired them to the title in 1962 and 1963
with Neymar instrumental in bringing back the glory days.
"Pele was a legend - one of a kind," said Neymar, having
also been compared to the three-times World Cup winner by Pele
himself. "I'll never be like him."
Barring the almost unthinkable, Santos will face Barcelona
in a mouth-watering Club World Cup final in Yokohama on December 18.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
Santos must beat either Mexico's Monterrey or J-League
champions Kashiwa Reysol in their semi-final before Barca face
Qatar's Al Sadd or Esperance of Tunisia.
Messi and Neymar looking to outshine each other in front of
70,000 people in Yokohama would provide an electrifying sub-plot
to the game.
"It's been a long time since we won the Libertadores Cup,"
Neymar told reporters. "But we've been working towards the Club
World Cup from the second half of our season."
In contrast, Barcelona fly out to the Far East after a
potentially rough-and-tumble 'Clasico' showdown away to bitter
rivals Real Madrid at the weekend.
Santos will be fresher and have had more time to adjust to
criss-crossing of so many time zones, although the absence
through injury of defensive midfielder Adriano is a big loss.
Neymar acknowledged Adriano would be "sorely missed" but
showed no lack of confidence about the team's chances of lifting
"I don't have a special approach to the game," said the
Brazilian league's Player of the Year. "I will do whatever it
takes for us to win, and so will everyone else on the team.
"If I get a bit of space it would be nice because I get
fouled a lot. It will be difficult but I want to leave my mark
with the club and to be part of its history."
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