Ivan Rakitic has told The Times that Neymar is on his way to taking over from Lionel Messi as the best the player in the world.
The Barcelona midfielder has no doubts that Messi leads the way and will continue to do so for the time being, but he’s also clear on the fact that Neymar is the next in line to football’s throne.
Since signing from Santos in 2013, the Brazilian has scored 90 goals in 149 Barca games and is in line to make his 150th appearance for the Blaugrana in Wednesday’s Champions League game against Manchester City.
Croatia international Rakitic continues to enjoy playing alongside the star South American duo and says he will do what he has to do to ensure they remain at the top of the game.
“If I can make Leo that little bit better, so I do it,” he said. “Sometimes, I laugh on the pitch watching Leo’s skill. If you want to see skill like that, you have to take PlayStation!
“Of course I like Cristiano [Ronaldo], he’s a big player, and there are maybe 10 players really special and I respect them and I say to all of them, ‘Congratulations,’ but if we speak about the best, it is Leo Messi.
“Neymar is on the way to be the next best. Barca will do the best thing to sign a new contract with him [one has already been announced, it’s just lacking the signature] and maybe they can put a buyout clause as high as possible, because he will be the next Messi for sure.
“He’s scored [nearly] 300 goals and he’s only 24. He’s really special.”
Rakitic also emphasised the importance Neymar has in the dressing room, singling him out as one of the people who helps create the great atmosphere the Barcelona players often speak about.
Dani Alves’ summer move to Juventus came as a big loss in that regard, Rakitic conceded, but he says there are plenty of other “crazy” players in the squad who have taken on the mantle.
“We lose the biggest character with Dani Alves,” he added. “He was the most important guy for the dressing room [for everything].
“But there are a lot of crazy — in a good way — guys like [Gerard] Pique, Jordi Alba, Luis [Suarez], Ney. It’s a really good dressing room.”