Rio de Janeiro, Feb 20: Brazil legend Pele has urged compatriot Neymar to choose Spanish football giants Barcelona over a move to Manchester City or Real Madrid.
His comments followed reports that the Premier League outfit was preparing a bid to offer Neymar's club Santos 55 million pounds to sign the striker in the European summer, reports Xinhua.
Usually a staunch supporter of Neymar's decision to resist offers from European clubs, Pele claimed the 21-year-old's lack of top-level experience has made him a "regular player" for the Selecao.
"He is an excellent player but he doesn't have any experience outside Brazil," the three-time World Cup winner told Estado de S.Paulo Wednesday.
"In every game he plays outside Brazil, he doesn't do well. Everybody thinks Neymar can solve the Selecao's problems, but he isn't ready for that burden. We have a great deal of confidence in him but he has become a regular player for the national team."
When asked which European club would be the ideal destination for Neymar, Pele replied: "The game is tougher in England, Italy and Germany because the referees usually let play go on. Barcelona would be ideal for him. Santos need him and for that reason I don't think he should leave but if he must go it should be to Barcelona."
The 72-year-old said Neymar's long list of off-field commitments and celebrity status in Brazil have affected his form.
Neymar's face can be seen on magazine covers, billboards and television commercials across the country. His ever-growing list of private sponsors - which include Nike, Panasonic, Volkswagen and Red Bull - are reported to be worth up to $30 million a year.
But despite an impressive 17 goals from 28 matches for Brazil since making his international debut in 2010, Neymar has struggled to repeat his sublime Santos form for the Selecao.
His lack of impact in Brazil's 1-2 loss to England at Wembley Stadium earlier this month has added further weight to concerns about his development at Santos.
"We think that he is the best in the world, but he is more concerned about appearing in the media than playing for the team," Pele said.
"Neymar has a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders. Right now his major concerns are fashion and his haircut."