Brazilian soccer star Neymar has declared national team teammate Vinicius Jr. as the world’s best player following his winning goal in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final. Vinicius Jr. scored Real Madrid’s lone goal in the 1-0 victory over Liverpool in Paris, getting on the end of a Fede Valverde cross just before the hour mark as Los Blancos held on. Real Madrid’s triumph was their 14th Champions League crown. His big performance in the match prompted Neymar to make quite the statement in a season where Karim Benzema has looked like the next Ballon d’Or winner, with Neymar’s PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe also expected to be a contender.
“Mbappe had a great season, Benzema too. But from what I’ve seen, Vinicus Junior is the best player in the world,” Neymar said in an interview with TNT Sports Brazil.
As Neymar plays with Mbappe for club and Vinicius Jr. for country, he can offer a unique perspective on the situation. Coming off of a season where he scored 22 goals and assisted 20 more, Vinicius Jr. certainly has a shot, but his numbers don’t jump off the page in the same way that Benzema’s do.
Benzema won the same trophies while scoring 44 goals and assisting 15. While Benzema wouldn’t have hit the highs he did without the help of Vinicius Jr.,, having almost double the goals is quite the difference. Benzema also scored back-to-back hat tricks in the knockout stage against PSG and Chelsea.
Mbappe scored 39 goals and assisted 26 goals in all competitions, but his case is hurt due to PSG only winning Ligue 1 and crashing out of the Champions League once again.
Ballon d’Or voting won’t include the World Cup as the award will be handed out before teams venture to Qatar, so players won’t have much time to improve their cases. While Neymar believes that Vinicius Jr. is the best player in the world, it’s unlikely he can convince enough voters for it to even be close.