Former Super Eagles of Nigeria midfield maestro, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, has given a hint on who he thinks would take over the reigns from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as “The Best”.
Jay Jay Okocha, who appeared in three FIFA World Cups from 1994 to 2002, caught up with FIFA.com, and gave his opinion on this year’s FIFA world footballer of the year.
FIFA.com: You were one of those players who managed to dazzle on the pitch while always seeming to enjoy yourself. Are those qualities sufficient to be crowned The Best?
Jay Jay Okocha: Anyone aspiring to be the best or one of the best, needs more than that. You also need to be able to focus, work hard, and be consistent, as natural talent alone is not enough to elevate you to that level. If you understand that, and you have the raw talent, then you can compete at that level.
Is there anyone today who resembles you as a player?
I’d say the player whose style most resembles mine would be Neymar. That’s because I played with a sense of joy and you can see that he feels the same and really enjoys his own play. He doesn’t play for himself or just to entertain the fans – he plays for his team. He uses his quality and skill for the good of the team.
Do you see him as a future successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
Yes, I think he will be the one to do it. Messi and Ronaldo have dominated world football for a decade and, given the nature of football, at a certain point the baton will have to pass to someone else. I think Neymar has a great chance of filling that role.
Ronaldo and Messi have the shared the glory over the last decade, but do you favour one over the other?
I have to be diplomatic here, especially as I’ve a lot of Portuguese friends, but I tend to lean towards Messi. He’s a more natural talent. Ronaldo is a fantastic player, one of the best I’ve ever seen, but he’s been a bit unfortunate to be of the same generation as Messi. Consequently, they have to share the limelight.
Can you think of an African player with a chance of being among the final three for The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award?
It’s hard to name one at present. If you’re talking about the top tier of players internationally, we don’t consider ourselves good enough to compete at that level. We have to change that attitude, and then we’ll be able to produce a player of the stature of the other top guys.