Messi vs Neymar at the World Cup: Who is a better player at the global showpiece?

In late 2021, Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar da Silva Santos Jr, popularly called Neymar or Neymar Jr, shocked the world by announcing that the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar would be his last.

Neymar, 30, said to DAZN in October 2021: “I think it’s my last World Cup. I see it as my last because I don’t know if I have the strength of mind to deal with football any more.”

He went on to clear the air in an interview with Red Bull, of whom he is the global brand ambassador. He said: “When I said that, it was a bit controversial, with people saying I wanted to stop playing football and that I would leave the national team.

“People understood a completely different thing. I wanted to say that I’m seeing it as if it was the last one. Why? Because we don’t know how tomorrow will be and what can happen.”

One thing is clear from both statements: Neymar, like his best friend and PSG striker partner Lionel Messi, could be playing at his last World Cup.

The former Santos forward has been the most impressive player on the international stage since his compatriot Pele. He has outperformed the biggest names in international tournaments, including his friend, Messi.

Let us now take a look at Neymar’s World Cup record in comparison with Messi’s to see who has performed better.

Messi vs Neymar Number of World Cups

Both players came into prominence in their national teams around the same age – 18 for Neymar and 19 for Messi. However, unlike Messi, Neymar was denied the opportunity to represent Brazil in the 2010 World Cup as the Brazil manager at the time, Dunga, believed he was still young and inexperienced.

Neymar debuted on the global stage in 2014, which means that one of Brazil’s most prodigious players in the 21st century only has two World Cup appearances to his name.

Messi, on the other hand, has four and could be making his fifth appearance this year while Neymar will be making his third.

Messi vs Neymar Number of appearances

The seven-time Ballon d’or winner has 19 World Cup games under his belt while Neymar has 10, as expected, because of the number of World Cups they have been to. Of those 19 apps, however, Messi has been subbed in twice but Neymar has started all 10 of his World Cup games.

Brazil made it to the semi-finals and the third place playoffs in 2014, but Neymar only played all five games up to the quarter final where he suffered a back injury. He also played all five games up to the quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup.

Messi, on the other hand, played three games in the 2006 World Cup as Argentina reached the quarter finals, all the games up to the quarter finals in the 2010 edition, all the games up to the finals in the 2014 edition, and all the games up to the round of 16 in the 2018 edition.

Messi vs Neymar Number of goals

As stated earlier, Neymar is considered a much better player on the international stage than Messi. His stats are better, as is his trophy haul.

In his ten World Cup games, Neymar has six goals, the same as Messi in his 19 games. It is argued that Neymar would have been the bigger player on the continent of South America if he and Messi started at the same time.

Messi vs Neymar Number of assists

The assist numbers are where Messi edges Neymar out, as the Argentine has racked up five total World Cup assists while Neymar has three.

Messi assisted twice in the 2006 World Cup, and once each in the 2010, 2014 and 2019l8 editions. In Neymar’s two World Cups, he assisted one goal (2014) and two goals (2018) respectively.

Putting both their goals and assists together, Messi has 11 total goal contributions from 19 games while Neymar has nine from 10 games. This shows Neymar to be the superior World Cup player.

It remains to be seen who gets the title first, with both players preparing for their last World Cups.

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