Former Real Madrid player and coach Jorge Valdano believes Neymar is the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo and he understands why the club have long pursued him.
Ronaldo, 33, has won the Ballon d’Or five times and the Champions League four times during his nine seasons at Madrid but appears set on trying to force an exit from the club — although sources have told ESPN FC that a new contract offer could resolve the situation.
But Madrid president Florentino Perez is reportedly more interested in pushing forward a €350 million deal to finally land Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.
“I must say that Neymar has what it takes to play for Real Madrid,” Valdano told L’Equipe. “For me, he’s the closest heir to Cristiano Ronaldo. It seems to me to be a legitimate aspiration to invest in a player of his talent who is going to reach his peak in the next five years.”
PSG’s record €222m purchase of Neymar from Barcelona last summer made others around the world view the club differently, Valdano said.
“More than anything, it was a great achievement for PSG to manage to recruit Neymar,” Valdano said. “It gave the club a different dimension in the football world.”
Many figures around Madrid, including captain Sergio Ramos and Brazil internationals Marcelo and Casemiro, have said in recent months they would welcome Neymar.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan