Dani Alves is putting his faith in Brazil team-mate Philippe Coutinho while Neymar is out injured, as he believes the Barcelona playmaker is on a par with the talismanic forward.
The right-back showered Coutinho with praise at a press conference.
“I think that Coutinho is a player who is on the same level as Ney, he has a massive influence on our game and in his teams.
“When he was in Liverpool and now in Barca, he has improved a lot and learned to read the game better, to make the right decisions.
“That is great to see, to play with such a good footballer who has that ability. There are others who are similar. We are lucky to play with great players and have them on our side is fantastic. We have to get the best out of them and build a solid team.”
Neymar will miss the Selecao’s friendly with Germany on Tuesday, their first meeting since the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup. Neymar was also absent from that clash through injury and witnessed a 7-1 demolition of his team-mates.
Coutinho missed out on a place in Brazil’s squad for that tournament, but he’s now the player the team will turn to if Neymar is not on the field.
The 25-year-old can be deployed in midfield, but as football writer James Nalton noted, Brazil boss Tite is also open to using him in the front three:
Tite's other plan, with Coutinho in the Neymar position instead of Dougie, and the extra defensive midfielder coming in.
Shame he's not giving a few of the other players a chance, such as Firmino, but Klopp won't mind, and Guardiola is probably pleased Jesus is getting minutes. https://t.co/nyGRJNompV
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) March 25, 2018
Neymar is expected to be fit for the World Cup, but should his recovery from surgery on a fractured metatarsal not go as planned, the Selecao will have to make do without their star and call on their other talents to raise their game.
Though that burden won’t fall entirely on Coutinho given Brazil also have the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Roberto Firmino to call upon, it’s understandable Alves is eager to boost his confidence.
Coutinho is enjoying the most productive season of his career, having bagged 15 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for Liverpool and Barcelona, whom he joined in January.
However, as talented as Coutinho is, it’s premature to compare him with Neymar, who has scored over 300 goals for club and country in his career.