Santos coach Muricy Ramalho has called Neymar’s talent “absurd” and said the 19-year-old forward is on the same level as Zico, Rivelino and Zinedine Zidane.
Asked if his No7 was as good as legends such as Zico, Romario and Rivelino, in an interview with Globoesporte.com, Muricy responded: “Yes. Neymar is certainly on this level. And I’m someone who urges caution with regards to calling players great. In Brazil, a player has one good game and they say he’s great.
“We have good players and very good players. A great is a genius who sees a play before others do. This is rare.
“The best I saw was Zico. Pele doesn’t count. He was on a level of his own. Zico had all the fundamentals: he could head, dribble, shoot well with both feet, had great vision and was an athlete. This is a great. Zico, Rivelino, Zidane... Neymar is on this level. The way he plays is absurd.”
Unfathomable problem of possession
Santos meet Kashiwa Resyol in the first semi-final on Wednesday, before Barcelona face Al-Sadd in theirs one day later. If, as expected, the South American kings and the European champions progress to the final, Muricy admitted he will have no way of stopping Barcelona’s singular ball retention.
“I know I will not be the beast who reduces Barcelona’s ball possession. Nobody can manage this. If we meet, they will have 65, 70 per cent of the possession. It’s the way it is.”
Muricy, who won three Brasileirao titles with Sao Paulo and one with Fluminense, before assuming the Santos reins at the start of this year and masterminding their Campeonato Paulista and Copa Libertadores successes, nonetheless believes his troops can find a way to overcome Pep Guardiola’s side.
“We have to mark tightly, put pressure on them and gamble on some things happening: a through-ball from Ganso or Elano, who are our best passers, or a stroke of genius from Neymar.
“Neymar will definitely do something. I have no doubt about this. I have no doubt that Neymar will make them suffer. As well as this, they struggle with high ball into their area. These are things we can exploit.”