Neymar would love the Premier League, says Juninho

Former Middlesbrough star Juninho says the sight of Neymar playing in the Premier League would be a welcome one.

Neymar would thrive if he left Barcelona for a club in the Premier League, according to former Brazil international Juninho.

Speculation persists over the future of Neymar despite the 25-year-old having signed a new five-year contract with Barca last October.

Manchester United have been linked with a world-record bid for the forward, despite manager Jose Mourinho describing a transfer as "impossible", while a shock move to Real Madrid has also been mooted.

And Juninho, who became a Middlesbrough hero during three separate spells with the club, believes it would be terrific to see Neymar – hit with a three-match ban on Tuesday following his dismisal against Malaga – in England's top flight.

"When I went to England the Premier League was the best league in the world and it's still seen that way," the 2002 World Cup-winner told The Daily Mail. "So one day if Neymar goes to England I think he would love it. It would be great to see."

Juninho was the top-scoring Brazilian in Premier League history until Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho struck his 30th goal in the division in Saturday's 2-1 win at Stoke City.

The 44-year-old says Coutinho should be regarded as second only to Neymar when it comes to assessing Brazil's latest crop of stars.

"Coutinho can be considered, after Neymar, the best player in Brazil," he said. "He's different class and he deserves everything he is achieving because he has worked very hard for it.

"If you have an intelligence to your game then you can find the space on the pitch and because the game in England is so fast that means a lot of the time it is also very open.

"One of Coutinho's biggest qualities is that ability to find the space. People think that type of player will have more difficulties adapting to English football than say Spanish football, but in England I found a lot more space than I did in Spain. The intensity is there, but if you get past the first wave of pressure then the pitch opens up.

"I am delighted that he takes my record. I can't think of anyone better – the record couldn't be in better hands."

Coutinho signed a fresh long-term Liverpool deal in January, but continues to be linked with a move away from Anfield, with Barca regularly credited with interest.

Juninho says it could be tough for the 26-year-old to turn down a major European side, but feels he might decide to stay in a league to which he has adapted so well.

"It's a difficult decision," he added. "Liverpool is a massive club too of course, but when Barcelona or [Real] Madrid or [Bayern] Munich come it is tough. But he has adapted so well to English football. That maybe will help him decide to stay in England."

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