Brazil legend Ronaldo has sent an emotional open letter to fellow countryman Neymar, urging him to “turn the hatred towards him into fuel.”
Ronaldo, who won the World Cup twice with Brazil, said he was surprised by the level of “jealousy and malice” the Brazil star had to contend with.
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Neymar is targeting his first senior trophy with his country but is unlikely to return before the knockout stages of the World Cup after injuring his right foot in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia.
Ronaldo has now jumped to the defense of the Paris Saint-Germain star after some fans celebrated his injury.
Ronaldo wrote on Instagram next to a picture of Neymar: “Of course, your talent has gone so far, so high, that you have love and admiration in every corner of the world.”
“And it is for this reason, because he has reached the place he has reached, because of the success he has achieved, that he has to deal with so much envy and malice. To the extent of celebrating the injury of a star like you, with a story like how far have we come, what kind of world is this, what message are we giving to our youth?
“There will always be people who oppose you, but it is unfortunate to see society on the path of less tolerance, of normalizing hate speech. It is against this verbal violence with destructive power that I am writing to you today: come back stronger! Smarter Hungry goals!
“The good you do on the field and off the field is much greater than the envy towards you. Don’t forget the journey that made you a world football idol. Brazil loves you! . Celebrate the love that comes from the majority of your country. You Bring Neymar back! And let all the hate be fuel.”
Neymar, 30, has had an impressive start to the tournament in Qatar. He scored 15 goals and scored 12 goals in 19 appearances in all competitions for PSG before the World Cup break.
The former Barcelona star has scored 75 goals in 121 matches for Brazil and is two goals behind Brazil’s top scorer, Pele.
Ronaldo isn’t the only Brazilian star to come out in Neymar’s defense. His friends Casemiro and Raphinha have also openly supported him.
“Friends of Argentina are treating [Lionel] Messi is like a god. Portuguese fans treat Cristiano Ronaldo as king. Brazilian fans are cheering for Neymar to break his leg,” Raphinha said on Instagram.
“How sad, the biggest mistake in Neymar’s career was being born in Brazil, this country does not deserve his talent and football.”
Casemiro said he was frustrated by the abuse Neymar received on social media.
“When you want to hurt someone, regardless of who they are, it’s very serious,” Casemiro said. “I’m very sad, especially for someone who helps a lot of people, who has a heart. Neymar doesn’t deserve this… Neymar is a great player, the star of the team, who makes the difference.”