The Brazil goalkeeper believes the Barcelona forward is more mature than the Italy striker and says the Selecao are fully focused on their final World Cup game
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar has hailed his compatriot Neymar as a “better player” than Italy striker Mario Balotelli.
Neymar has been put forward as the Selecao’s key man as Brazil attempt to secure a record sixth World Cup triumph on home soil.
The Barcelona forward scored two goals, including a penalty, in Brazil’s opening match against Croatia while AC Milan striker Balotelli netted the crucial opener against England in Manaus.
But, despite Balotelli’s important contributions to the Azzurri so far in the competition, Cesar has instead insisted that 22-year-old Neymar is better than the Italian.
“I had the opportunity to play with Mario at Inter [Milan] when he was only a kid, 17 or 18 years old,” Cesar told Sky Sport Italia.
“The fact he went to England and Manchester City before returning to Italy made him more mature, helped him to calm down and become an important player.
“Neymar is, for me, today among the top three strikers in the world. I know because I follow his progress, speak to him and play in his team.
“He is a lad who has so much more to give to the world of football. If I had to choose between Mario and Neymar, I would pick Neymar. He is a better player, more complete and more mature.”
Although Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team secured a win in their opening Group A game in Sao Paulo, their passage to the knockout stage is not guaranteed after the Selecao could only muster a goalless draw against Mexico in Fortaleza.
Brazil know that if they were to lose their final match against Cameroon and if Croatia and Mexico were to draw, they would be out of the tournament.
And Cesar has revealed that his teammates will be fully focused on the task at hand when they play the already-eliminated Cameroon in Brasilia on June 23.
“We knew that it wouldn’t be an easy group. I think that Mexico, Croatia, and Cameroon is a complicated group. And in a certain way it was great for us,” the 34-year-old said.
He added: “I think in other World Cups Brazil had qualified past the group stage earlier, which is great since you’re more relaxed but right now we aren’t in a position where we are comfortable, comfortable in the standings.
“We’re in a good standing, where we can control things well and we could get to the last game and still qualify first in our group.”