Monday 14 November 2016, 15:52

Cubillas: Neymar is Barcelona’s most important player

Teofilo Cubillas has exalted Neymar and revealed Peru have put back the towels they were about to throw in on their chances of reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

“The admiration I have for Neymar is because I view him as a player of incredible nobility,” the Blanquirroja legend told SporTV. “He could have easily arrived at Barcelona acting like a star. But he arrived humbly, always accepting that the man at Barcelona is Messi.

“And seeing everything he has done, besides this, makes him even greater. I can say that Barcelona’s most important player, at this time, is Neymar, with his joy and way of playing.”

Peru clinched only 11 points from their first ten Russia 2018 qualifiers and were 1-0 down at half-time away to Paraguay last Thursday. Ricardo Gareca’s team nevertheless produced a stunning fightback in Asuncion, winning 4-1 to leave themselves just three points shy of fourth-placed Ecuador. They host Brazil on Tuesday evening.

“To be honest, here in Peru, we’d already thought about throwing in the towel,” admitted Cubillas. “We didn’t think that Peru would be able to recover like they did . But with the possibility of achieving what we all want, we can’t sing victory.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match. But I believe that, if the Peru players play like they did against Paraguay, a lot of things could happen.”

Cubillas was the second recipient of the South American Footballer of the Year award, sandwiched by Brazilians Tostao and Pele. He scored 26 goals in 81 games for Peru, which made him their all-time leading marksman until he was surpassed by Paolo Guerrero at this year’s Copa America Centenario.

One of them was a vicious volley in an exhilarating 4-2 loss to Brazil in the Mexico 1970 quarter-finals. Furthermore, El Nene (The Kid) is one of only three men to have scored five or more goals at more than one World Cup. Germany duo Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller are the others.

Peru won the teams’ last meeting 1-0 in Foxborough, Massachusetts to eliminate Brazil from the Copa America 2016.