Brazilian Philippe Coutinho has named former Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah and compatriot Neymar as the two players who can challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup.
Coutinho returned to Anfield on Sunday as he played 82 minutes in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Croatia in their World Cup warm-up game.
Egyptian Salah is continuing his recovery from injury after being forced off after 30 minutes in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
While Neymar made his return following more than three months out with injury with a goal against Croatia.
With the tournament just 10 days away, Coutinho believes it is time for players other than Messi and Ronaldo to step up on the big stage.
‘It feels like the right moment for someone to take their chance at this World Cup,’ Coutinho said.
‘Messi and Ronaldo have been up there on their own for so many years. I think it may be time for other players to aspire to be the best in the world – and the best at this World Cup, too.
‘For me, Salah and Neymar have serious chances to do that.
‘It depends on how the tournament goes, of course, but they have the talent to do it. Those are the players I would pick out.’
Coutinho and Salah played together as part of Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’ before the former signed for La Liga giants Barcelona in January.
And the Brazilian was full of praise for his ex-team-mate.
‘Watching Mo Salah since then has been amazing,’ he said.
‘He is going to be a player who will be a big hero at Liverpool for a long time, I am totally convinced of that.
‘He can do well in the World Cup, too – it all depends on how far his team can go. But we also know what Neymar can bring. He is a special player.’