Brazilian playmaker Neymar has tried to silence critics of his Barcelona team mate Lionel Messi who are of the opinion the Argentine ace was not the worthy winner of the World Cup Golden Ball award.
Brazil’s poster-boy spoke out in an interview with Rede Globo during which he backed his Barca comrade as ‘at least’ amongst the top three stand-out players of the World Cup tournament this summer.
In the same breath he mentioned German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and Netherlands midfielder Arjen Robben as the two other stars he would place in the top three alongside Messi.
“I’m a huge Messi fan, as a player and as a person,” said the 22-year-old.
“I don’t know whether it was fair or not but, for me, he was one of the best players in World Cup.
“At least in the top three, anyway. I think Schweinsteiger and Robben were also among the top three.”
Neymar’s comments came in stark contrast to those made by Argentine legend Diego Maradona last week, who publicly stated that Messi – who shares his old No.10 Argentina shirt number – did not deserve to win the Golden Ball, branding his selection for the honour a shameful marketing ploy.
Messi, who captains the Argentina national team, led his side to the World Cup final only to be pipped to the post in extra time by an unshakeable Germany side.
Following the tournament the player was widely criticised for failing to score in the knock-out stages however he scored four goals throughout the whole competition, placing himself joint third on the World Cup top scorer list with Brazil’s Neymar and the Netherlands Robin Van Persie.
Top goal scorer of the competition was Colombia striker James Rodriguez, who netted six, with Germany’s Thomas Muller cruising in close second with five.