Eusebio believes Lionel Messi deserves to retain the FIFA Ballon d'Or and that Neymar can become the best player on the planet.
“Right now the best player in the world is called Messi, the Argentinian,” the 69-year-old Portuguese legend told SporTV. “He’s a player who deserves it.”
Messi, who won football’s biggest annual individual prize in 2010 and ’11, is bidding to become the first man to seize three successive awards. And while, at 24, the Barcelona No10 has plenty of time on his side, Eusebio reckons his status as the sport’s best player could be challenged by Neymar in the future.
The Mozambique-born former Benfica striker said of the Santos teenager: “He’s still a young player, he has qualities. He could become the best in the world if he uses his head.
“He has to prepare well physically, because he knows how to play with the ball. In Europe you have to know how to play and defend in terms of your body. Like I said, the future is in his hands and his head.”
Messi is one of four multiple recipients of FIFA’s award for the world’s best player, along with Ronaldo (1996, 1997 & 2002), Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000 & 2003) and Ronaldinho (2004 & 2005).
Alongside the Albiceleste captain and Neymar on this year’s 23-man shortlist are Eric Abidal, Sergio Aguero, Dani Alves, Karim Benzema, Iker Casillas, Samuel Eto’o, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Forlan, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller, Nani, Neymar, Mesut Ozil, Gerard Pique, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wesley Sneijder, Luis Suarez, David Villa, Xabi Alonso and Xavi.
The winner will be revealed at the FIFA Gala at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on Monday 12 January 2012.
Eusebio, who hit 41 goals in 64 games for Portugal, was named the European Footballer of the Year in 1965, ahead of Inter Milan pair Giacinto Facchetti and Luis Suarez.