Neymar the heir to Pele's throne as Brazil's Selecao sizzle under Tite
Neymar took another giant step towards history by leading Tite's Brazil past Peru on Thursday.FotMob - 3 months ago
Neymar to eclipse Pele? It is now a matter of when, not if.
Touted as the heir to Pele's throne long ago, Neymar is only nine goals away from equalling the Brazil legend's record of 77 goals for the Selecao.
Neymar was on target as Brazil made it two wins from two games to start their Copa America defence with a 4-0 rout of Peru on Thursday, taking his international tally to 68 goals.
Often a maligned and criticised figure in the world of football due to his on-field antics – evident when the referee overturned a penalty after conducting a VAR check – there was no doubting Neymar's quality and standing within Brazilian football against Peru.
"It is obvious that for me it is a great honour to be part of the history of the Brazilian team," an emotional Neymar said post-match. "To be quite honest, my dream was always to play for the national team, to wear this shirt. I never imagined reaching those numbers.
"For me it's even exciting, because I went through a lot in these two years that are very difficult, complicated, and those numbers are nothing. The happiness I have to play for Brazil, to represent my country, my family."
Unfazed by the penalty reversal moments earlier, Neymar then popped up and fired a low long-range shot past Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese with 22 minutes remaining.
No one comes close to Neymar since his Brazil debut in 2010. The 29-year-old has scored 49 goals more than any of his international team-mates in that period.
While he only found the back of the net once, Neymar was at the heart of Brazil's big moments.
There were flicks, stepovers and moments of trademark Neymar flare – playing a key role in goals for Alex Sandro, Everton Ribeiro and Richarlison. He had a match-best three key passes and five total shots, to go with his game-high seven fouls won.
Neymar is at the centre of all things good about Tite's red-hot Brazil.
Since Tite took charge in 2016, Brazil have scored two-plus goals in 37 of the 56 games under the former Corinthians boss; 66 per cent of those games scoring more than one goal (W36 D1).
Prior to easing past Peru, Brazil had never lost in the 43 previous games overseen by head coach Tite when scoring the opening goal (W38 D5) in all competitions.
Tite's Brazil – building towards Qatar 2022 in pursuit of a coveted first World Cup crown since 2002 – have won nine consecutive games, keeping eight clean sheets.
Brazil has given the football world some of the best forwards and strikers to play the game – Pele, Ronaldo, Romario, Zico, Bebeto and others.
But Neymar is set to stand alone at the summit.