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is Lionel Messi’s heir apparent as the world’s leading footballer, according to Barcelona team-mate Ivan Rakitic.
Brazil captain Neymar has scored 90 goals in 149 appearances since joining the LaLiga champions from Santos in 2013.
He is part of a formidable front three alongside Messi and Luis Suarez that is set to line up once more against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Messi is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, with his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo tipped to claim the prize for a fourth time this year on the back of Champions League and Euro 2016 glory.
Neymar came third in the voting for football’s most sought-after individual prize last time around, but midfielder Rakitic expects his standing to improve in the near future.
“If we speak about the best, it is Leo Messi. Neymar is on the way to be the next best,” he said in an interview with the Times.
“Barca will do the best thing to sign a new contract with him and maybe they can put a buyout clause as high as possible, because he will be the next Messi for sure.”
“He’s only 24. He’s really special.”
Rakitic also reserved praise for the third member of the all-star triumvirate and feels Suarez’s free-scoring spell in the Premier League with Liverpool marked a key stage in his development.
“The years at Liverpool were really important for Luis,” he added.
“There he takes the change from a good player to be the best striker in the world and then do the next step at Barcelona.
“When he’s not playing; it feels something’s wrong. Luis is one of the most important players for us.
“He’s a really good guy in the dressing room, one of the most open people who likes to joke.”