Ronaldo: If Santos' Neymar wants to win Fifa Ballon d'Or & overtake Lionel Messi, he has to leave Brazil

The teenager is determined to stay at Santos, but the former striker believes a European move would be the first step in surpassing the Argentine winner of 2012's trophy
Brazilian football idol Ronaldo has signalled that Neymar has to leave his home country if he wants to reach the level of Fifa Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi, and used the example of himself to prove that foreign-based players can still be admired back home.

The Santos wonderkid, 19, won the Puskas award at Monday's ceremony for the best goal of the year, beating Messi and Wayne Rooney to the prize due to his magnificent solo effort against Fluminense.

He was also short-listed for the Ballon d'Or, but missed out on a nomination to the top three and had to watch from the audience as Barcelona's Argentine forward lifted the trophy for the third consecutive year.

Speaking before the ceremony, compatriot Ronaldo was certain that he would be approaching Messi's level if he chose a European switch.

"Neymar cannot just reach Messi, he can be better. He has too much talent to stay only in Brazil," the former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker told reporters.

"He is a talent that we have to export and allow him to dominate the world, to own it playing the game that he does. The prestige and competition in European football is massive."

Neymar recently committed his future to Santos until 2014, and Ronaldo received strong criticism for suggesting that he should make a move sooner rather than later.

The retired striker, however, made no apologies for his remarks.

"I have taken some flak for having said that, but every person has their opinion and it should be respected. I know people like to follow their idols close, but Brazilians also watch the European games," he pointed out.

"They love to watch Barcelona and Real Madrid. I have played practically my entire life out of the country. And the people's love is the same, if not more."

Neymar was honoured with the 2011 South American Player of the Year award, and was also voted Copa Libertadores best player for his efforts in helping Santos win the trophy.