Soccer-World-Neymar bids to enter Brazil's pantheon of greats

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By Andrew Downie SAO PAULO, April 28 (Reuters) - Every time Brazil have lifted the World Cup the star of the show has been a forward, and Neymar will seek to keep up that tradition in June and July. It will not be easy to replicate the feats of Pele, Garrincha and Ronaldo, who all guided Brazil to glory at the finals, but the 22-year-old Barcelona player has what it takes to succeed on the biggest stage. As a teenager he helped Santos to their most successful run of titles since Pele was at the club more than 40 years previously and he was voted the player of the tournament when Brazil won the Confederations Cup last year. Neymar has faced some understandable difficulties adapting to life on and off the field in Barcelona after joining almost a year ago. The financial machinations of the transfer caused the resignation of Barcelona's president while Neymar and his agent-father have become embroiled in a war of words with Santos. But the forward tends to put his troubles to one side when he pulls on Brazil's famous yellow shirt. Neymar has more of a free role with the national side and his predatory instincts in front of goal will be vital if Brazil are to go all the way this time, especially with doubts over the reliability of centre forwards Fred and Jo. The Barcelona player has scored 11 goals in 15 games for Brazil since leaving Santos, taking his overall total to 30 in 47 internationals. Neymar was in inspired form at the Confederations Cup and, ominously for the sides who are out to prevent Brazil lifting the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time, he says the squad are improving all the time. "The team is ready, we have our style of play and with time to prepare before the World Cup the understanding we have will only get better," he said. "I am happy to score goals but the goals come because there is a team behind me with a united philosophy." It would be easy to view Neymar as the consummate individual. He frequently changes hairstyles, he has an obsession for 'selfies' and has a host of endorsement deals. But he is a more mature player than many give him credit for and he is popular with, and respected by, his team mates. Cafu, the man who led Brazil to their last triumph in 2002, believes Neymar has what it takes to join the pantheon of World Cup greats. "Neymar can be the leader," said Cafu. "He's young but he is experienced and he is not afraid to take responsibility." (Editing by Tony Jimenez and Mike Collett)

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