Brazil legend Ronaldo has sent an emotional open letter to compatriot Neymar urging him "to turn the hate" he is receiving "into fuel."
Ronaldo, who won the World Cup twice with Brazil, said he is shocked by the level of "envy and evil" the Brazil star has had to contend with.
Neymar is aiming for his first senior trophy with his country but is unlikely to return before the knockout stages of the World Cup after injuring his right ankle in their 2-0 opening win against Serbia. Ronaldo has now jumped to the paris Saint German star’s defence after some fans celebrated his injury.
"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," Ronaldo wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of Neymar.
"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! ...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, 30, headed to the tournament in Qatar in spectacular form. He scored 15 goals and set up 12 more in 19 appearances across all competitions for PSG before the World Cup break.
The former Barcelona star has scored 75 goals in 121 appearances for Brazil and is two strikes away from equalling Brazil's all-time top scorer Pele.
Ronaldo is not the only Brazil star to come out in defence of Neymar. His teammates Casemiro and Raphinha have also publicly backed him.
“Argentina fans treat Messi like a god, Portugal fans treat Cristiano Ronaldo like a king when Brazilian fans cheer for Neymar to break his leg,” Raphinha said on Instagram.
"How sad it is, the biggest mistake in Neymar's career is being born in Brazil, this country does not deserve his talent and football."
"When you wish harm on someone, regardless of who they are, it is very serious,” Casemiro said. "I am very sad, especially for a person who helps so many people, who has a huge heart. Neymar doesn't deserve this... Neymar is a great player, the star of the team, who makes the difference."