Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar occupies the same talent bracket as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Timothee Kolodziejczak, with the world’s best “a gift from God”.
Modern day icons on the books of Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated the global game for over a decade now, sharing 10 Ballons d’Or between them.
A new generation is emerging, though, with Brazil international Neymar heading the contenders ready to compete for the most prestigious individual prizes in football.
Kolodziejczak, who has previously faced the South American in La Liga and is about to be reunited with him in Ligue 1, sees no reason why the 26-year-old cannot reach the very top as he has already shown himself to be one of the finest performers around.
The St Etienne loanee, who spent three years with Sevilla between 2014 and 2017, told L’Equipe of the battle between Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo: “They are different.
“Mentally, Cristiano Ronaldo is a killer. Ten years at this level, with the same desire, no one has ever seen that. People outside of football cannot understand that but for us players, it inspires respect.
“Messi is a gift from God. Neymar is the same - younger but just as hardworking. If you don’t have that then you cannot be at this level.”
Kolodziejczak added: “With Sevilla, I played against the best players in the world.
“Finding yourself against Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar allows you to progress in concentration, physically and tactically. You learn to pay attention to everything on the pitch.
“Neymar [was the most difficult to mark]. In Spain, he impressed me with the ball. He was the fastest at Barca, while Messi decided the fate of the match with a quick attack or a free kick.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the complete player. He has such charisma that he takes up a lot of space in his side. With [Gareth] Bale and [Karim] Benzema, Real were loaded with talent.”
Neymar has faced criticism at times throughout his career for supposed theatrics, with accusations often levelled at him that he goes to ground too easily.
Kolodziejczak believes those actions are merely self-preservation tactics from the Brazilian, with talent such as his singled out for rough treatment on a regular basis.
The French defender added: “[In Spain] he was taking so many blows that I can understand him.
“Sometimes he's scared. It's up to him to find a happy medium to avoid adding any more injuries. We must protect this kind of player.”
Another of the exciting talents making a mark on a European stage at present is Neymar’s club colleague at PSG, Kylian Mbappe.
Kolodziejczak will not have to contend with the teenage forward during a Ligue 1 fixture on Friday as the World Cup winner is currently serving a ban, but he is still a player that demands respect.
“To be honest, I'm relieved not to play against him,” said Kolodziejczak.
“What he does, at 19 years old and with such ease, is so impressive. I hope that he is aware that the future belongs to him.”