Neymar can call upon the full support of Brazil icon Ronaldo as he recovers from injury, with R9 posting an emotional message on social media.
A superstar of the present has been laid low with an ankle problem picked up in a 2022 World Cup opener against Serbia, with that knock set to prevent him from competing in a Qatar showpiece again until the knockout stages have been reached. Some have delighted in seeing the Paris Saint-Germain forward forced onto the treatment table, but Ronaldo – who knows all about the pressure of competing for global glory with Brazil – says the vast majority of football supporters wish Neymar well as he seeks to illuminate the grandest of sporting stages and cement his standing among the greats.
Ronaldo, who inspired Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 while also forming part of a triumphant squad in 1994, has said: "I couldn't start this open letter any other way: you're f*cking Neymar! Giant! I am sure that most Brazilians, like me, admire and love you. Your talent, by the way, has taken you so far, so high, that there is love and admiration for you in every corner of the world. And it is also for this reason, for having reached where he has, for the success he has achieved, that he has to deal with so much envy and evil. On a level of celebrating the injury of a star like you, with a story like yours, how far have we come? What world is this? What message are we passing on to our young people? There will always be people rooting against you, but it is sad to see society on a path of trivialising intolerance, of normalising hate speech.
"It is against this verbal violence with destructive power that I write to you today: come back stronger! Smarter! Hungry for goals! The good you do on and off the field is much greater than envy towards you. Don't forget for a second the journey that made you a world football idol. Brazil loves you! The real fans - the ones who are in favour - need your goals, dribbles, boldness and joy! Don't exalt the cowards and envious. Celebrate the love that comes from most of your country. You will bounce back Neymar! And may all the hate turn into fuel."
Neymar saw a home World Cup in 2014 ended by an unfortunate injury and has endured fitness issues during his time at PSG, but the 30-year-old is one of the finest talents of his generation and – with 122 caps to his name – is only two goals away from matching Pele's all-time record for Brazil.
Brazil, who have also seen their squad hit by a sickness bug over recent days, will be back in action on Monday when taking in a meeting with Switzerland.