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Neymar says Lionel Messi better as teammate than rival

Brazil striker Neymar said he prefers to be lined up alongside Lionel Messi rather than against him, but "will do everything it takes to win" when the two meet as Brazil and Argentina face off in the third CONMEBOL 2018 World Cup qualifying fixture.

Five-time champions Brazil will open their World Cup qualifying campaign away against Copa America holders Chile, followed by Venezuela in October, but Neymar will miss both matches while he serves out his 2015 Copa America ban. He will return to action vs. Argentina in November.

"Messi is a great player, playing against him is not good, it is bad," Neymar told Globo's SporTV on Sunday. "Qualifying is going to be close, the national teams are very well prepared. I think we have to be very attentive, train well and concentrate on getting Brazil qualified."

Neymar, who teamed up with Messi for Barcelona to win La Liga and Champions League, said he is confident he can be among the Ballon d'Or finalists. However, he said his goal is not to surpass his Argentine teammate.

"I don't want to surpass Messi. I want to trace my own path by doing the things I have been doing, winning titles, reaching goals," Neymar said. "I don't want to surpass anyone, I don't want to be better than anyone else. I only want to be the best that I can be."

Asked whether he feels pressure as Brazil has struggled at the 2014 World Cup and again at the 2015 Copa America, Neymar said he is making the pressure work for him instead of against him.

"I am not the type of person who lets the pressure get to him. I try to see it as my friend, I align with it to calm me down. I know that it is a huge responsibility to be the captain, the No. 10, but I like it," Neymar said. "I like the responsibility, the pressure and I like playing football."

The CONMEBOL nations will play 18 competitive fixtures over a two-year period with the top four teams qualifying automatically and the fifth-placed finisher facing a home and away playoff against the top Oceania confederation finisher.

Neymar admitted that CONMEBOL is a competitive region.

"I think we have become a bit stagnant and we are behind some of the teams from this region. The level of football talent is very even. Chile has a great team, they won the Copa America playing well, We have to learn from everything, not just Europe. Look at Chile, they are right here next to us."