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A number of pundits did not feel that the Barcelona ace should have been voted the top player in Brazil this summer but the Selecao starlet has jumped to his club-mate's defence

Neymar has attempted to defuse the controversy over Lionel Messi's Golden Ball triumph in Brazil by arguing that the Argentina captain was "at least" among the top three players at the World Cup.

Messi led his country all the way to the final in Rio de Janeiro, where they were edged 1-0 after extra-time by Germany.

The 27-year-old was presented with the Golden Ball for the tournament's best player after the match, much to the bemusement of many football fans and pundits, with Argentine icon Diego Maradona even claiming that it had been down to "some marketing plan".

Neymar, though, believes that Messi, who failed to score in the knockout stages, did enough in Brazil to at least mark himself out as a legitimate contender for the accolade.

"I'm a huge Messi fan, as a player and as a person," the Selecao starlet said of his Barcelona team-mate during an interview with Rede Globo's 'Fantastico'. 

"I don't know whether it was fair or not but, for me, he was one of the best players in World Cup.

"At least in the top three, anyway. I think [Germany midfielder Bastian] Schweinsteiger and [Netherlands attacker Arjen] Robben were also among the top three."

Neymar, of course, saw his tournament ended by a fractured vertebra sustained in his country's quarter-final win over Colombia and then had to sit on helpless as Brazil suffered a humiliating last-four hammering at the hands of Germany.

The inquest into the Selecao's capitulation is ongoing but Neymar does not believe that Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has since resigned, should have been made the scapegoat for what he believes was a cultural failing.

"I'm a guy who don't know much about tactics," he confessed. "But we had a leader [Scolari] who was one of the best Brazilian coaches the Selecao have ever had.

"I also question myself about why we did not win the World Cup, but I can't find an way to explain it. But who prepares better wins in football. Preparation is everything.

"I think the Brazilians are some of the best players in the world but every training session in Europe is taken seriously.

"In Brazil, it's different. You train more, but some time you train with less determination. Brazilians are like that.

"Brazilian football is behind Germany and Spain football. We have to be men up to admit that."

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