Neymar (31-Al Hilal) has described his ‘Saudi senior’ Cristiano Ronaldo (38-Al Nasr) as a pioneer.
“I believe Ronaldo started the trend of world-class players coming to the Saudi league,” Neymar said in an interview with Al Hilal on Saturday (June 16). Everyone was criticizing him, saying he was ‘crazy’ and all sorts of things, but in the end, a lot of players are coming here.”
As well as Neymar and Ronaldo, recent arrivals include Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Fabinho, Zotta (at Al Ittihad), Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Juventus Neves and Malcom (at Al Hilal), Riyad Mahrez, Alain Saint-Maximin, Roberto Firmino and Edouard Mendy (all of Al Ahli), Jordan Henderson, Mousa Dembele and Steven Gerrard (Al Etihad) have played in the Saudi league.
Neymar said: “It’s a motivation for me to play against the best players from other teams. It will be more fun to play against Ronaldo, Benzema, and Firmino,” he said. “I’m very happy to be in a new league. Moving to Al Hilal is a new experience and a new challenge in my life. I’m excited to make history here. I am proud to start a new challenge. I look forward to helping the Saudi League grow further.”
Neymar’s new team, Al-Hilal, is the all-time winningest team in the Saudi League. They have won the title 18 times. Al Ittihad and Al Nasr, the runners-up, have won the title nine times each. That’s a pretty good indication of Al Hilal’s status in Saudi soccer.
Al Hilal’s biggest rival is also Al Nasr. Both are prestigious teams based in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Supporters often clash when the two teams meet. When Al Nasr signed Ronaldo, he was asked to “beat Al Hilal”.
Neymar left Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) after six seasons. Neymar, who joined PSG from FC Barcelona in 2017 for a then-record transfer fee, scored 118 goals and provided 77 assists in 173 appearances for PSG over six seasons.
He won the French Ligue 1 title five times and the French Cup three times. However, the club has never won the UEFA Champions League (UCL), a long-standing ambition of PSG’s. They did reach the Champions League final in the 2019-20 season, but finished as runners-up to Bayern Munich.
He recently showed his bromance with Lee Kang-in. PSG made a big splash in the summer of 2023 when the transfer window opened. Lee signed a five-year contract with PSG and was given the number 19 shirt. He became the first Korean player in PSG’s history.
Throughout the preseason tour, Neymar and Lee stuck together. They laughed and joked on the bench during a preseason game in Japan. When Neymar was unable to play due to injury, they waited on the bench, pulling each other’s hair and joking around.
Their bromance was confirmed during a friendly match in South Korea. On March 3, PSG and Jeonbuk Hyundai played a friendly match at the Busan Asiad main stadium. Neymar played the full game and scored two goals. Lee came on as a substitute in the second half. It was the first and last time they played together.바카라사이트
Neymar and Lee had only been together for about two months. When Neymar left for Saudi Arabia, Lee posted a farewell message on social media. Neymar saw his message and said, “See you next time, son,” promising a reunion.
Neymar, who spent the last decade playing at the highest level in Europe, including Spain and France, will now continue his career in Saudi Arabia. All eyes will be on Neymar to see what other superstars will follow in his footsteps.