‘I want to write new sporting history’ – Neymar joins Al-Hilal

Brazilian forward Neymar has completed a transfer from French champions Paris St-Germain to Saudi Pro League team Al-Hilal.

The deal for the 31-year-old former Barcelona player is reported to be valued at approximately 90 million euros (£77.6 million), with potential additional payments.

“I’ve achieved a lot in Europe and enjoyed special times, but I have always wanted to be a global player and test myself with new challenges and opportunities in new places,” he said.

Neymar had been excluded from PSG coach Luis Enrique’s plans for the upcoming season. This was evident when he was not included in PSG’s squad for their Ligue 1 match against Lorient.

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“I want to write new sporting history, and the Saudi Pro League has tremendous energy and quality players at the moment,” Neymar added.

“I have heard a lot and learned that I am following a long list of Brazilian players who have played in Saudi Arabia over the years, so I believe it is the desired place.”

Neymar’s departure aligns with PSG’s shift away from the “Galacticos” era of signing high-profile players for substantial fees and wages, a strategy also exemplified by Lionel Messi’s departure from the club this summer.

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At PSG, Neymar was earning an estimated annual income of about 25 million euros (£21.6 million). In Saudi Arabia, he is expected to receive 150 million euros (£129.2 million) per year, a six-fold increase, as part of a two-year contract.

Al Hilal’s chairman, Fahad bin Saad, welcomed Neymar to the club, referring to him as a “global icon” and praising his attacking prowess.

Neymar had made 173 appearances for PSG, contributing to their success in winning 13 trophies, including five Ligue 1 titles and a runner-up finish in the 2020 Champions League final.

“It is always difficult to say goodbye to an amazing player like Neymar, one of the best players in the world, said Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG’s president and chief executive.

“I will never forget the day he arrived at Paris St-Germain, and what he has contributed to our club and our project over the last six years.”

This transfer follows a series of notable signings by Saudi clubs during the summer, showcasing the league’s ambitions to become one of the premier competitions in the world. Other prominent players, such as Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Neves, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino, have also made moves to Saudi Arabia.

Neymar’s new teammates at Al-Hilal include former Wolves captain Ruben Neves, ex-Chelsea center-back Kalidou Koulibaly, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, formerly of Lazio, all of whom were secured for substantial fees.

The financial strength of the Saudi league has been noted by various figures, including Pep Guardiola, who remarked on the league’s changing influence after Riyad Mahrez’s move from Manchester City to Al-Ahli in July.

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“A few months ago when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was the only one to go, no-one thought this many top, top players would play in the Saudi league,” the City manager said.

“In the future there will be more and that’s why clubs need to be aware of what is happening.

“I don’t know how long they will sustain it, but the feeling is that they will stay.”

Source – BBC

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