Brazil star Neymar says he wants to “write a new sporting history” in Saudi Arabia after signing for record league champions Al Hilal.
The forward, one of the most prominent footballers in the world, was announced on Tuesday night as the Riyadh club’s latest signing. He joins from Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year deal. The reported transfer fee is €90 million ($98.5m)
“I have 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," Neymar said.
“I want to write new sporting history, and the Saudi Pro League has tremendous energy and quality players at the moment. I have heard a lot and learnt 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, 31, is expected to be formally introduced to Hilal fans in Riyadh on Saturday before the team’s league match against Al Fayha at the King Fahd International Stadium.
"Al Hilal is a giant club with fantastic fans, and it is the best in Asia,” Neymar said. “This gives me a feeling that it is the right decision for me at the right time with the right club. I love winning and scoring goals, and I plan to continue doing that in Saudi Arabia and with Al Hilal."
Already the world’s most expensive player following his €222m transfer in 2017 from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Neymar is Brazil’s joint all-time leading goalscorer, alongside Pele. He has 77 goals in 124 appearances for his national team.
The Sao-Paulo born attacker adds further lustre to the Saudi Pro League following a summer of huge investment. The kingdom has attracted this window, among others, current Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, Manchester City treble-winner Riyad Mahrez, France World Cup winner N’Golo Kante, and former Liverpool quartet Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, was signed by Al Nassr last December.
Hilal, record 18-time Saudi champions, opened their 2023/24 Saudi Pro League campaign on Monday, with a 3-1 win away to Abha. Malcom, Neymar’s compatriot and another summer signing, scored a hat-trick, while Hilal have also added to their ranks Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. A move for Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is understood to be close to completion.
Hilal are also record Asian champions (four), while last season they finished runners-up in both the Asian Champions League and the Fifa Club World Cup.
"Neymar Jr is a global icon who has brought joy and pleasure to all fans wherever he plays,” Hilal chairman Fahad bin Nafel said once the signing was confirmed at the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris, France. “The spotlight is always on him, and he always responds to it. We are delighted to have him join Al Hilal, the most successful club in all of Asia.
“He is an unstoppable attacking force and has achieved so much in his wonderful career. But the future is even brighter, and his signing is exactly what the team needs. He is a natural goalscorer.
"Everyone in Saudi Arabia is happy to know he is coming and is ready to welcome him. I wish him and his teammates best wishes for the season ahead as we look to build upon our past success.”
In four years at Barcelona from 2013, Neymar won the Uefa Champions League and two La Liga titles. He captured five Ligue 1 trophies with PSG.
Neymar sat out the French champions' Ligue 1 season-opening 0-0 draw with Lorient on Saturday having trained alone the previous day. The capital club said it was because he was recovering from a viral infection.