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Dec 3, 2012

Scolari: Neymar can win World Cup

Neymar is not too young to shoulder the burden of leading Brazil's World Cup hopes, new national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari says.

Santos forward Neymar, 20, is still viewed as a rookie, but Scolari has faith in his ability to deliver when Brazil host world football's biggest tournament in 2014 and pointed to the achievements of Pele, who won the World Cup as a teenager in 1958, and Ronaldo. When asked if he was concerned by Neymar's age, he told FIFA.com: "No, because Ronaldo used to be one of the leading figures in A Seleção, and he shone for Brazil when he was only 19 or 20.

"Pele too was only 17, and though he wasn't a big name at the time he became one during that World Cup.

"At the end of the day, it's not a problem. Of course you need to have a lot of character and be very level-headed. What's more, the young lad could be an icon in technical terms, but that doesn't mean he has to be a leader within the squad too.

"That's where it's important for there to be a good level of understanding between the coaching staff and the players so everybody knows where they stand. But I don't see anything wrong with the fact that a 20- or 21-year-old player is our biggest star."

Scolari also backed Neymar to begin challenging Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's top footballer soon, claiming that he does not need to leave Santos to do so.

"I think that, from next year, Neymar won't be in the top ten [for the FIFA Ballon d'Or] - he'll be in the top three. That's where he'll probably be," Scolari added.

"Neymar doesn't need to go to Europe to be chosen as the world's best player, because the coach he has at Santos now [Muricy Ramalho] has been working with him for over a year. And, during that period, we've seen how Neymar has changed in terms of his attitude and his positioning out on the pitch.

"Muricy has helped and continues to really help Neymar to grow in tactical terms. I don't believe that he needs to go to Europe to evolve as a player. Anyone who knows Neymar knows that he's been coming on leaps and bounds in the last two or three years and that he's probably going to come on a lot further too."

As for his views on this year's prize, Scolari reckons Real Madrid duo Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo are deserving winners of the top honours.

He said: "I'd go for Jose Mourinho, because I think he's one of the world's great coaches and he's been doing an excellent job since he started at FC Porto, then at Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real Madrid. Because of how he's strung all that good work together, I'd pick Mourinho."

For the players' award, which will be contested between Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, the former Portugal boss continued: "I've seen them all play, of course, but I've only worked with Cristiano.

"I think that he deserves the recognition, because of what he's achieved with Manchester United, Portugal and Real Madrid. I'd vote for him.

"He's been spectacular for four or five years in a row now and has only won once, so I'd choose him. That's also because, having worked with him, I know how dedicated he is. I know how hard he works on his physical condition and technical ability in order to keep improving and reach his objective of being the best in the world."

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