Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar Jr. has admitted that he has previously found himself on the verge of quitting professional football. He says that the constant criticism has almost pushed him to early retirement.

Even though the Brazilian is often mentioned in the same breath as football legends and superstars like Cristiano Ronald and Lionel Messi, he is often treated with a lot less reverence and respect. Despite having enjoyed a stellar career that has seen him winning numerous trophies, Neymar Jr. is often haunted by critics who are relentlessly pointing out his "play-acting" on the pitch and his flamboyant "playboy lifestyle."

In an exclusive interview with Gaffer, Neymar Jr. spoke up about the toll that all the criticism has taken on his mental state. One particularly painful incident was the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where he was seen as a villain when Brazil was booted out by Belgium. Again, his "diving" and other theatrics on the pitch were put under the spotlight. Even fellow Brazilians turned against him, openly blasting the man they once idolised.

"I will never lose the passion for football, but I have had moments that I wanted to stop playing," he said. "Once, I reached a point of asking myself why I should keep playing if they do not like it. I used to go home hot-headed and then remembered everything I've done to get me here. The love I have for football and all those things just calmed me down and brought me back to reality."

Neymar pointed out that he knows how lucky he is to have achieved what he has thus far. He has enjoyed massive success with Santos FC in his native Brazil before being plucked out by Spanish giants FC Barcelona. He then moved to French champions PSG in a then-record breaking transfer deal. Along the way, he strung together a long list of titles.

The controversial star, who again faced criticism a few weeks ago for allegedly hosting a massive New Year's Eve party which he has denied, also thinks that there is a lot of unhealthy judgement in social media. "Many people can come and take part of your life, by judging you, hating and envying you. That's why I never take people's comments seriously. I don't like reading things that are not cool, things that are not necessary."

However, he admitted that people he cares about do get upset by the comments, and that's what makes it hard.

"It is very easy for people to talk about your personal life without really knowing you. But the real me, the real Neymar, is well known by my family, the people who work with me and my friends. They know me! These are the opinions I care about," he concluded.

Neymar Jr.
Brazil's Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain in August 2017 Photo: AFP / FRANCK FIFE