Brazil legend Pele believes Lionel Messi is the most complete player on the planet and one of "two or three" on par with the greats of previous eras.

The former Santos forward and three-time World Cup winner named Barcelona captain Messi, Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar as the select few deserving to be discussed as the world's best.

Messi, 32, and Ronaldo, 34, have long dominated the game's most coveted individual awards but are reaching the latter stages of their highly decorated careers.

Selecao star Neymar became the most expensive player in history when he moved from Barca to PSG in 2017, but for Pele there is a clear standout among the trio.

"I think of Leo Messi," he told Gazzetta dello Sport when asked who he would most like to play alongside.

"He is a skilled player, gives assists, passes, scores, dribbles well. If we were in the team together, the opponents should worry about two players, not just one! Today, Messi is the most complete player."

However, when balancing the leading players of today compared to those of the past, he lamented a perceived lack of true stars.

"Once, you found two or three in every country with a great football culture," the 79-year-old said.

"Eusebio, Simoes, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Maradona, Garrincha, Didi. How many did I say? There were so many.

"Today we have two or three in all. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, I would say Neymar, who in Brazil has not yet managed to become a great figure."

That would change if Neymar inspired the country to glory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which will mark two decades since the South American nation's most recent triumph.

"I hope that at the next World Cup he is in good physical condition," Pele said.

"People criticise him, I even did it a few times, but we forget that he is a product of ours, of Santos. We always want the best for him. I talk about him often with his father.

"Technically, he is an excellent player."

Rodrygo Goes says it is a "shame" he never got to play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and does not want to be seen as a replacement for the Real Madrid great.

The 18-year-old has made a quick impact at the Santiago Bernabeu since arriving from Santos in a reported €45million deal agreed last year, scoring five goals in six appearances.

Rodrygo has already earned comparisons to Ronaldo, who scored a club-record 450 goals for Madrid before leaving for Juventus in July 2018.

However, the teenage forward – in line to earn his first senior Brazil cap in Friday's friendly with Argentina – is cautious about playing with such high expectations. 

"Being able to play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid was a dream of mine and it's a shame that he left because now I think it would be very difficult to play with him," he said at a Brazil news conference on Tuesday.

"I am still a very young player to talk about filling the place left by someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is one of the greatest players in the history of the club – if not the greatest.

"I don't want to weigh myself down with the pressure of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo."

Rodrygo scored 93 seconds into his Madrid debut in September's 2-0 LaLiga win against Osasuna and netted a hat-trick in last week's 6-0 victory over Galatasaray in the Champions League.

The youngster has made a big impression in the Spanish capital but is surprised by how quickly his career has taken off.

"You always try to make sure you are fully prepared so that things turn out well, but I could never have imagined that everything would happen so quickly," he said.

"It's all come as a huge surprise to me. Only a short while ago I was hoping to make my Champions League debut... and maybe at the most score a goal.

"Scoring a hat-trick like I did was something nobody expected. So I can't really explain how I felt after the game. Al I could do was enjoy a special, once-in-a-lifetime moment."

He added: "Learning the ropes as a footballer isn't just about what's done on the training pitch. There is a big mental part too, preparing yourself so that success doesn't go to your head and knowing how to handle fame and to not be presumptuous. 

"On that side of things, it helped me a lot that my father was a footballer, and that gave me a head start on the mental part. I watched him go through things that are happening to me now and so I know I can't let all of this attention go to my head."

Rodrygo was left on the bench for Madrid's 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday but is primed to make his senior Brazil debut.

"I feel fulfilled. It has always been my dream," he said. 

"Since I was a boy I have dreamt about representing the national team and playing alongside the best players in the world – players whose careers I have been following for a long time.

"So being here gives me happiness that I can't begin to put into words. Everything that has been happening in my life makes me feel very happy."

Brazil captain Thiago Silva is not concerned about coming up against Lionel Messi in Friday's clash with bitter rivals Argentina, rather seeing it as a source of pride to take on the Barcelona superstar.

Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time since the Copa America, where Brazil beat Argentina 2-0 in July's semi-final.

After that controversial encounter, Messi accused CONMEBOL of corruption, earning a four-match ban and a $50,000 fine.

Messi is expected to make his return during the friendly clash in Saudi Arabia, and Silva prefers not to look at the situation with fear, instead relishing facing one of the best.

"We are not concerned but proud to have a chance to face him," Silva told reporters on Monday.

"They [Argentina] have their star, we won't have ours [Neymar, who is injured], but Brazil is Brazil, and we showed it during our Copa America win.

"They are living a different moment, as are we when you consider the last few matches. Brazil versus Argentina is always a great game, with great football and scoring chances.

"There's a 50:50 winning chance for each side - let's hope we are more inspired then than they are."

Brazil winger Willian added: "He [Messi] is a great player, unmatched, the best in the world. We've faced Argentina when he played before, and this will be just like those times.

"There must be more attention on him, we must restrict his spaces. We'll not man-mark him, but whoever is around him must close down the spaces, not leave him room to think."

Real Madrid youngster Rodrygo Goes is in line to earn his first senior cap at the tender age of 18 after breaking into the first team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The wide attacker has already scored five goals in just six matches for Madrid, and Silva has been impressed, even suggesting he hopes Zinedine Zidane leaves the teenager out when Paris Saint-Germain take on the LaLiga giants in the Champions League later this month.

"The fact he's with the Selecao is a unique opportunity, he surely has dreamt about this moment," the PSG defender said of Rodrygo. "I hope he can enjoy it the best way possible.

"I have over 100 caps and every time I'm here, I feel the chills. I hope he has the wisdom to make the most of it.

"It's surprising really to most people, an 18-year-old with loads of personality. You see for the way he scores goals how calm and reserved this kid is, he's not doing it to show off.

"Let's hope Zidane keeps him on the bench! He's a player who'll demand more attention from your side. His quality speaks for itself."

Willian demanded "proper sanctions" be imposed on Dynamo Kiev after fellow Brazil international and former Shakhtar Donetsk team-mate Taison was racially abused by supporters in Sunday's Klasychne derby.

Taison led a Shakhtar counter-attack deep into the second half in Kharkiv before fouling Dynamo defender Artem Shabanov, to which the visiting fans in that corner of the stadium reacted with racist chants.

The forward reacted by showing his middle finger to those responsible and then booting the ball towards them, before referee Mykola Balakin ushered the teams off the pitch as per UEFA protocol, with Taison and fellow Brazilian Dentinho in tears.

Upon the teams' re-emergence a few minutes later, Balakin showed Taison a straight red card much to the former Metalist star's bemusement.

Shakhtar and their coach Luis Castro released strongly worded statements after the match and Willian – a former team-mate of Taison's at Shakhtar and with Brazil – urged the authorities to take "proper" action after the Ukrainian Premier League pledged to prosecute those identified as responsible.

Speaking ahead of Brazil's upcoming clash with Argentina, Willian said: "It's another sad episode for football.

Argentina pair Marcos Rojo and Roberto Pereyra have been ruled out of the country's international friendlies against Brazil and Uruguay.

As Lionel Messi prepares to make his comeback following a three-month suspension, Argentina defender Rojo and midfielder Pereyra have withdrawn from Lionel Scaloni's squad.

Rojo was ruled out following Manchester United's 3-1 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday in which he appeared at Old Trafford, while Watford's Pereyra succumbed to a hamstring injury.

Argentina have drafted in Boca Juniors' Alexis Mac Allister for Friday's showdown with South American rivals Brazil in Saudi Arabia and the November 18 fixture against Uruguay in Tel Aviv.

Messi is back in the squad after the Barcelona and Argentina captain was banned by CONMEBOL in August and fined $50,000 for accusing the governing body of corruption following his side's semi-final loss to Brazil at the Copa America.

The 32-year-old has missed Argentina's past four matches – all friendlies – which has seen the country rout Ecuador (6-1) and Mexico (4-0), and draw with Chile (0-0) and Germany (2-2).

Ajax and Brazil forward David Neres has been ruled out for the remainder of the year with a knee injury sustained against Chelsea, head coach Erik ten Hag has confirmed.

The 22-year-old has featured 20 times for the Dutch champions in all competitions this season, scoring six times and providing a couple of assists.

Neres played 72 minutes of Ajax's 4-4 Champions League draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, but he damaged his meniscus in the first half and is sidelined until 2020.

"We will have to make do without David until the winter break," Ten Hag said at a news conference ahead of Sunday's home meeting with Utrecht.

"At half-time [against Chelsea] I asked everybody if they were okay and everybody said yes. Directly after the game it was clear that he was injured, but we didn't expect that it was so heavy.

"I think it happened in the first half. There were two small moments when he got a knock. But I can't know for sure."

Neres, who has started four games for Brazil this year, will miss Ajax's crucial Champions League games with Lille and Valencia.

"It's a major setback. These things happen. I feel really sorry for him," Ten Hag said.

"It's a major blow for him, but for the team as well. But it's mainly hard for him, because he was getting in a better shape. That makes it a big blow for the entire team as well."

Eredivisie leaders Ajax are top of Champions League Group H, level on points with Chelsea and Valencia.

Eddie Jones will coach a Barbarians side including four of South Africa's Rugby World Cup winners against Fiji just two weeks after they beat his England side in the Rugby World Cup final.

Makazole Mapimpi, Tendai Mtawarira and Lukhanyo Am were in the Springboks starting line-up for their 32-12 victory over the Red Rose at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday.

The trio are set to play under Jones at Twickenham on November 16 along with Herschel Jantjies, who was among the replacements as South Africa claimed the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.

Mapimpi scored his sixth try of the tournament in the final and fell just one short of Wales wing Josh Adams' tournament-leading tally in Japan.

Retiring Ireland captain Rory Best and France centre Mathieu Bastareaud have also been named in the Baa-baas squad for the Killik Cup clash with the Pacific Islanders along

The Barbarians will also face Brazil in Sao Paolo on November 20 and Wales at the Principality Stadium 10 days later.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is back in Argentina's squad for next month's friendlies against Brazil and Uruguay after serving a three-month suspension.

Messi was banned by CONMEBOL in August and fined $50,000 for accusing the governing body of corruption following his side's semi-final loss to Brazil at the Copa America.

The 32-year-old has missed Argentina's past four matches - all friendlies - but is in line to make his return in November after being named in Lionel Scaloni's latest 26-man squad.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is also included for the first time since Argentina's 2-1 third-place play-off victory over Chile in the Copa America, while Tottenham midfielder Giovani Lo Celso returns after sitting out of this month's draw with Germany and victory over Ecuador.

There is still no place in the squad for Paris Saint-Germain's in-form striker Mauro Icardi, however, with his most recent cap coming against Mexico in November 2018.

Club team-mate Angel Di Maria, absent since the Copa America, is also missing again.

Argentina meet Brazil in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 15 and then travel to Tel Aviv, Israel, to face Uruguay three days later in the final international break of the calendar year.
 

Argentina squad in full:

Agustin Marchesin (Porto), Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Juan Musso (Udinese); German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nehuen Perez (Famalicao), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Porto), Walter Kannemann (Gremio); Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Guido Rodriguez (Club America), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Nicolas Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Rodrigo de Paul (Udinese); Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Nicolas Gonzalez (Stuttgart), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).

Teenage Real Madrid forward Rodrygo Goes has been included in Brazil's squad for the first time ahead of next month's friendlies with Argentina and South Korea.

The 18-year-old made his first competitive start for Madrid in Tuesday's 1-0 Champions League win against Galatasaray, having also made a couple of substitute appearances in LaLiga this season.

Rodrygo is joined in Tite's 23-man squad by fellow newcomer Douglas Luiz, who has performed well in the Premier League since joining Aston Villa from Manchester City in July.

There is no place for fellow Madrid players Vinicius Junior and Marcelo, while injured Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar also misses out, but Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson returns to the squad after recovering from a calf injury.

Brazil take on South American rivals Argentina in Saudi Arabia in three weeks and then travel to Abu Dhabi for a friendly with South Korea.

The Copa America holders enter the match without a win in their past four outings - all friendlies - and Tite is looking for an improvement as preparations continue for next year's World Cup qualifiers.

"I was not satisfied with our performances and results," he said at a news conference on Friday.

"But we have played in three competitive competitions. In the first, we formatted the team. The second, we reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup. In the Copa America, we won the title.

"Now we are at a new stage of the preparations, preparing for the qualifiers."

Brazil squad in full:

Alisson (Liverpool), Daniel Fuzato (Roma), Ederson (Manchester City); Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Emerson (Real Betis), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Fabinho (Liverpool), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan), Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich); David Neres (Ajax), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Willian (Chelsea).

Neymar is expected to be out for four weeks after the Paris Saint-Germain star suffered a hamstring injury on international duty.

The Brazil forward was withdrawn in the 12th minute of the Selecao's 1-1 friendly draw with Nigeria on Sunday.

PSG announced Neymar had an MRI scan on Monday that confirmed the injury, which will be re-evaluated in eight days.

Neymar has played just five games for PSG this season owing to an ankle injury picked up in June.

The ex-Barcelona forward did not make his first appearance until September, having attempted to force a move away from the club he joined for a world-record €222million fee in 2017.

He was booed by the home fans on his return to the side in a 1-0 victory over Strasbourg, in which he scored a spectacular overhead kick winner.

The 27-year-old has four goals in his five games for Thomas Tuchel's men, who have a two-point lead in Ligue 1 and have two wins from two in the Champions League.

Speaking after the stalemate with the Super Eagles, Brazil coach Tite said Neymar was not a pre-match injury risk.

"It would be irresponsible and incompetent of me [to play him if he was a doubt]," Tite explained.

"I would have to receive the complaints of the coach and the president of PSG if that happened."

Neymar posted an image on his Instagram story of him back in Paris and receiving treatment for the injury.

The length of Neymar's absence means he is likely to miss two Champions League games with Club Brugge and Ligue 1 matches with Nice, Marseille, Dijon and Brest.

In the same announcement, PSG said Kylian Mbappe is “positively following his recovery programme” after missing the game against Angers last time out.

Edinson Cavani, who has been out since August with a hip issue, continues training with the squad.

Julian Draxler (foot) and Colin Dagba (thigh) have returned to training.

Neymar is expected to be out for four weeks after the Paris Saint-Germain star suffered a hamstring injury on international duty.

Brazil coach Tite is adamant Neymar had shown no sign of injury before Sunday's 1-1 friendly draw with Nigeria, in which the forward was withdrawn after 12 minutes due to leg discomfort.

Neymar was named in Brazil's starting XI for the friendly in Singapore but appeared to reach for the back of his left leg as he made an early exit.

He was then seen in conversation with a member of Brazil's staff on the bench, though Neymar did not look to be in significant pain.

Nevertheless, given the injury problems the forward has sustained in the last two years, Tite was asked after the game if he had taken a risk by playing him.

Tite was unequivocal in his response, insisting the Paris Saint-Germain star would not have played had there been any doubt over his fitness.

"No, not at all," Tite replied when asked if Neymar was at risk before the game.

"It would be irresponsible and incompetent of me [to play him if he was a doubt]. I would have to receive the complaints of the coach and the president of PSG if that happened."

With the international break now over for Brazil, Neymar will return to PSG, who are next in action against Nice on Friday.

 

Tite commended Brazil's second-half improvement against Nigeria despite being left with a disappointing 1-1 draw and four-match winless streak from Sunday's friendly in Singapore.

Casemiro's scrambled equaliser three minutes into the second half earned the Selecao a share of the spoils following Joe Aribo's opener.

The Copa America winners had already suffered one blow prior to falling behind, losing star forward Neymar to a suspected hamstring problem in the 12th minute.

His replacement, Philippe Coutinho, squandered a late chance and Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro rattled the crossbar with a header as Brazil failed to improve on the 1-1 draw they registered against Senegal on Thursday.

"The result was insufficient," Tite told reporters at the National Stadium.

"In terms of results, the Brazilian team always wants to win and seeks to win.

"But especially in the second half, we had a great performance. We had ball possession and creativity.

"It's no use having possession of the ball without creating, but we did. It was not effective [enough] to score."

Though the superior side after a sloppy first half, Brazil have now failed to overcome any of Colombia, Peru, Senegal and Nigeria since being crowned South American champions on home soil in July.

Tite's men would have had less work to do had defender Marquinhos made a better effort to block Rangers midfielder Aribo's path to goal in the 35th minute.

The Paris Saint-Germain centre-back put the onus on the entire team to break free of their funk.

"As soon as possible we need to rediscover our game pattern," Marquinhos said.

"We have conceded goals in each of these four games. We have to improve collectively, then the individual [personalities] will appear."

Brazil face bitter rivals Argentina in Riyadh on November 15 before rounding out their 2019 schedule with a friendly against South Korea in Abu Dhabi four days later.

Brazil lost Neymar to an early injury scare and stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Nigeria as their post-Copa America malaise continued in Singapore.

Having last month restored him to the starting XI, Paris Saint Germain will have been especially concerned when Neymar clutched at his hamstring as he headed to the bench in the 12th minute of Sunday's international friendly.

Joe Aribo fired Nigeria into the lead not long later before Casemiro scrambled Brazil level within three minutes of the interval.

The Real Madrid midfielder went closest to winning it, seeing a header cannon against the crossbar on the hour, but the Selecao were unable to end what is now a four-game winless streak.

Roberto Firmino threatened with a well-struck shot on the turn before Ederson denied Victor Osimhen in an entertaining first five minutes.

Tite was forced to call on Philippe Coutinho when Neymar made way and Brazil's woes were compounded in the 35th minute.

Moses Simon controlled Osimhen's cross and spotted the late-arriving Aribo, who doubled his international account after dancing through Marquinhos' weak challenge.

The defender went some way to making amends when his header from a Dani Alves cross came back off the woodwork and dropped for Casemiro to sweep home.

Casemiro almost single-handedly completed the comeback from Coutinho's corner before substitute Richarlison turned a chance the wrong side of the upright.

Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho had to be taken off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly while attempting to thwart the Casemiro chance.

But his absence failed to hinder the Super Eagles, who held on for a creditable draw after Semi Ajayi blocked a meek Coutinho finish at close range in the closing stages.

What does it mean? Selecao still stuck in a slumber

Brazil's inability to build on their Copa America success has been startling.

Securing continental silverware on home soil was expected to prove the catalyst for Tite's team to grow but they have recorded no more than three draws and a defeat since edging Peru in July.

Centre-back stars for Super Eagles

William Troost-Ekong looked a defender of international class at the World Cup in Russia and acquitted himself well against Brazil's strike force, tallying six clearances and several moments of impressively calm defensive work.

Marquinhos culpable for opener

Meaningless friendly or not, the lack of desperation Marquinhos displayed in defending Aribo's opening goal cannot be tolerated by a team fighting for form.

What's next?

Brazil are to face rivals Argentina in a Superclasico de las Americas clash in Saudi Arabia on November 15, while Nigeria commence Africa Cup of Nations qualifying next month.  

A potential hamstring problem ended Neymar's involvement during the early stages of Brazil's friendly against Nigeria.

The Paris Saint-Germain star did not appear to be in much discomfort but reached for the back of his left leg as he made his way off the pitch after 12 minutes of Sunday's game in Singapore.

He was then seen in conversation with a member of Brazil's staff on the bench at the National Stadium.

Philippe Coutinho replaced the 27-year-old, who won his 100th international cap in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Senegal.

An ankle injury forced Neymar to miss this year's Copa America on home soil and he only returned to action for PSG a month ago, with his reintroduction to the team delayed in part by his widely reported desire to engineer a transfer back to former club Barcelona.

The forward made his first appearance of the season and spectacularly scored the winner in the Ligue 1 victory over Strasbourg on September 14.

Further goals followed against Lyon, Bordeaux and Angers before he headed to Asia to link up with Tite's squad.

Page 1 of 8
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.