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HT Exclusive: Neymar will surpass Pele’s Brazil record, says Zico

Brazil legend and FC Goa coach Zico believes the 24-year-old will one day become the country’s most successful striker.

football Updated: Oct 16, 2016 15:24 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
Indian Super League,Zico,Neymar
Zico is in his third season as FC Goa coach.(Prateek Choudhury/HT Photo)

Zico pulls no punches. Be it about the Indian Super League (ISL), where he is FC Goa’s coach for the third successive season, Neymar, Tite’s appointment as Brazil coach or Argentina’s dependence on Lionel Messi. That’s what you get from football’s most famous four-letter word without a World Cup title; one who is immortalised in bronze in Kashima, Japan, has a statue at Rio’s Flamengo football club and another at the Maracana.

Nine days after Neymar overtook him as Brazil’s fourth-highest scorer with 49 goals, Zico told HT that the Barcelona star would easily beat Pele’s feat of 77 international goals, the highest by a Brazilian. “For sure, he will,” said Zico, as he elaborated on the answer through an interpreter.

“He will get much more games. In my case, we would get only six World Cup qualifiers. Then again, there are so many friendlies. You can play against teams such as Gabon, Haiti. We would play a lot of games but they would be with teams within Brazil or against clubs in Milan, Madrid.”

Zico believes Neymar will get many more games, helping him overhaul Pele’s goal tally for Brazil. (AFP)

In a 10-year international career, Zico played 71 games and scored 48 goals. Since his 2010 debut, Neymar, 24, has played 73. Pele’s record came in 92 games.

Asked about Brazil’s turnaround under new coach Tite — with four successive wins since September 1, they are on top of the World Cup’s South America qualifiers with 21 points from 10 games — Zico said: “Since 2012, Tite has been the best coach in Brazil. And that means he is more prepared.”

And when the conversation shifted to Neymar’s more famous teammate at Barcelona, Zico said there is no reason for Argentina to depend so much on Messi. “That’s my opinion. They shouldn’t be (depending on Messi). A team that has Aguero, Lavezzi, Higuan, De Maria, Mascherano, shouldn’t. If they lose when Messi’s not around, well it’s because “that’s football,” he said.

Zico termed the ISL as the beginning of something positive but said it isn’t worthy of comparison with the early days of the J-League. Firstly, the J-League was the only league in Japan, he said. “And each team was allowed three foreigners. You had to bring three foreigners who were so good that Japanese footballers could learn from them.”

The ISL allows 11 imports and the difference between most of them and Indians isn’t much, said Zico. Even though Zico was 40 when he played for Kashima Antlers in the first season of the J-League, most of the imports in Japan were younger. Gary Lineker was 32, Salvatore Schillaci was 30, Dejan Stoichkov 29 and Ramon Diaz 34. At 28, Mohamed Sakho is the youngest ISL marquee ever but before him it was Elano Blumer and Helder Postiga who were 33 last year.

First Published: Oct 16, 2016 15:17 IST