Neymar is capable of filling Lionel Messi’s boots at Barcelona when the day comes for a six-time Ballon d’Or winner to walk away from Camp Nou, says Jofre Mateu.
Such a move will not be made any time soon, with an exit clause that exists in the Argentine’s contract having expired for 2020.
A mercurial talent is, however, only tied to terms with the Blaugrana for another 12 months and is yet to commit to an extension beyond that point.
At 32 years of age, and having been a one-club man to this point, it has been suggested that Messi will look to head home before hanging up his boots.
He has made no secret of the fact that he would like to take in competitive outings for Newell’s Old Boys – the club that initially spotted his potential – prior to heading into retirement.
If a move away from Catalunya is to be made, then somebody will be required to follow in the footsteps of an all-time great.
Former La Masia academy graduate Mateu, who was on Barca’s books as Messi’s star began to rise, believes Neymar could be the man to provide inspiration for the Liga giants.
A return to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain has been mooted for the Brazil international, with the next transfer window expected to see that interest rekindled.
“Some players will be very happy if he comes back because they are very good friends,” Mateu told IANS.
“When he left Barcelona it came as a shock for us, the supporters. He certainly isn’t the same player anymore because of his age and also his off-field problems. But as a player there is probably no discussion that he is one of the best in the world.
“When Messi isn’t there, then probably he can take his place.”
While talking up Neymar’s ability to fill the void created by a legend, Mateu admits that he would prefer to see Barcelona build even more long-term and raid the ranks at PSG for an alternative frontman.
He added: “I prefer Mbappe now. I think because of his age and mentality, I think Mbappe is going to be the next top player in the world.”
Barca have rarely been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Mbappe, with speculation regarding a possible switch to Spain for the World Cup winner seeing Real Madrid head the queue for a talented 21-year-old.