Former Nigerian international Jay-Jay Okocha has claimed that new Paris Saint-Germain signing Neymar will take over as the world’s best player from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Qualified to assess the best players in the modern game, Okocha spoke to FIFA.com about this year’s The Best Awards, what it takes to reach that level and his favorites to win the men’s award on October 23 in London.
On the qualities that a player needs to be crowned the best:
Anyone aspiring to be the best, or one of the best, needs more than that. You also need to be able to focus, work hard, and be consistent, as natural talent alone is not enough to elevate you to that level. If you understand that, and you have the raw talent, then you can compete at that level.
Okocha says Neymar most resembles his style on the field:
I’d say the player whose style most resembles mine would be Neymar. That’s because I played with a sense of joy and you can see that he feels the same and really enjoys his own play. He doesn’t play for himself or just to entertain the fans – he plays for his team. He uses his quality and skill for the good of the team.
Does Okocha believe Neymar is the future successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
Yes, I think he will be the one to do it. Messi and Ronaldo have dominated world football for a decade and, given the nature of football, at a certain point the baton will have to pass to someone else. I think Neymar has a great chance of filling that role.
When asked if he favors Ronaldo or Messi over one another:
I have to be diplomatic here, especially as I’ve a lot of Portuguese friends, but I tend to lean towards Messi. He’s a more natural talent. Ronaldo is a fantastic player, one of the best I’ve ever seen, but he’s been a bit unfortunate to be of the same generation as Messi. Consequently, they have to share the limelight.