As Neymar closes in on Pele’s record goal tally, the Brazil legend paid his compatriot a glowering tribute.
Pele has revealed he is rooting for Neymar to break his record of 77 goals for the Brazilian national team.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored his second goal in as many games to help Brazil seal a 4-0 win over Peru in the Copa America on Friday morning. It was his 68th goal at international level. It leaves him nine goals adrift of record-holder Pele in second-place in the all-time Selecao scoring charts.
An emotional Neymar later opened up in Rio de Janeiro about closing in on Pele after his latest strike. He confessed the last two injury-plagued years had been difficult. But he reiterated his joy in representing Brazil and his desire to make everyone proud.
“It’s moving for me. I’ve been through a lot these last two years,” Neymar said on approaching Pele’s record.
“These [goal] numbers are nothing more than my joy of playing for Brazil, representing my country, my family. We’re all going through a very atypical moment, a very hard moment in Brazil and elsewhere.
“To be a role model for someone, to make people happy, it gives me joy. I love the story that I’m writing here. I want my family and friends to be proud. I hope everyone who loves this game are proud of me because these numbers don’t really mean anything, only the pride of representing Brazil.”
Now Pele has endorsed Neymar, remarking on how the 29-year-old’s smile is ‘contagious’ and backing him to break his record.
“Every time I see this boy, he is smiling,” Pele wrote on Instagram. “It’s impossible not to smile back. It is contagious.
“I, like all Brazilians, am always happy when I see him playing. Today, he took another step towards my goalscoring record for the Selecao. And I’m rooting for him to get there, with the same joy I’ve had since I saw him play for the first time.”