Neymar impatient to be back on pitch after Al Hilal clinch Saudi Pro League title

Jorge Jesus's side hold 12-point advantage over Cristiano Ronaldo's second-placed Al Nassr following their 4-1 win over Al Hazm

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Al Hilal have won a fourth Saudi Pro League title in five years after thrashing Al Hazm 4-1 and will now return to their quest of securing a trophy treble in what has already been a historic season for the club.

Jorge Jesus's side now lead Riyadh rivals Al Nassr in second by 12 points with just three matches remaining after an Aleksandar Mitrovic double, Ahmed Al Juwaid's own goal and a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic strike swept aside the league's bottom club on Saturday.

It means Al Hilal have sealed a record-extending 19th Saudi Pro League title, having clinched the Saudi Super Cup title in April when they brushed aside last season's title winners Al Ittihad 4-1 at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

They will now aim to overcome Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr again when they two clubs meet in the Saudi King's Cup final at King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah.

Hilal remain unbeaten in the SPL having won 29 of their 31 matches, drawing the other two, while they also embarked on a remarkable run of 34 consecutive victories across all competitions – beating the previous world record of 27 matches held by Welsh side The New Saints.

And the club achieved this without the services of superstar signing Neymar, who has missed most of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee on international duty with Brazil in October.

The 31-year-old was at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Sports City stadium in Riyadh to see his team clinch the title, having made only three SPL appearances before picking up his injury.

“I am very happy obviously,” said the attacker, who moved to the kingdom from Paris Saint-Germain last August. “Winning titles is always good. The best thing would have been being on the pitch, but I am so happy for my teammates.

“I am fine. I am feeling good. I am impatient to be back on the pitch. The fans are unbelievable. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to give them the happiness they deserve but you can be sure that next season we are going to have a lot of fun.”

The big disappointment of the campaign came in the Asian Champions League when Hilal were knocked out in the semi-finals by UAE side Al Ain.

Despite winning the second leg on home turf 2-1, their 4-2 defeat by Hernan Crespo's side over in the UAE led to a 5-4 aggregate loss that meant Hilal's quadruple dreams – and 34-game win streak – were over.

But that surprise defeat should not take away from the club's “spectacular season”, insisted manager Jesus,

“What we have achieved is an example for all the others because if we see all the details then we are the best in goalscoring [95], best in fewest goals conceded [20], no losses in the league, and obviously the most points [89],” said the 69-year-old Portuguese.

“We are the Super Cup winners, in the King’s Cup final, and have won the league. We only failed in the Asian Champions League, in the semi-final, but if we speak about the Saudi level then winning the King’s Cup will mean we have won everything available this season in Saudi Arabia.

“That’s my habit wherever I’ve been – with Flamengo in Brazil I did this, with Benfica in Portugal I did this, and now at Al Hilal this can be achieved.

“We prepared to do this from the beginning of the season – but we have had to do this missing key players; Neymar for most of the time, Mitrovic for some of the time. But I have the notion that the Saudi league will grow better and better every time.”

Al Hilal president Fahd bin Nafel had earlier confirmed that the club have entered into negotiations to extend Jesus' deal to remain at the club, but the experienced manager revealed that no new contract had been agreed yet.

“So far nothing has been decided,” added Jesus. “My agent will come next week to discuss the matter.

“My project at Al Hilal is not over yet. I have many goals if I continue as coach of the team, including competing for the Asian Champions League title and also making a quality participation in next year's Club World Cup.”

Meanwhile, striker Mitrovic has been the club's spearhead since joining from English Premier League side Fulham, with his double against Hazm taking his tally for the season to 26 in 25 games.

But this is unlikely to result in the league's top-scorer crown for the Serbian at the end of the season. On Friday, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo notched his 33rd goal in a 3-2 win at Al Akhdoud and is now just one behind the league record set by Abderrazak Hamdallah in 2019.

Rivals Hilal and Nassr clash again at King Fahd International Stadium in the SPL on Friday.

Updated: May 12, 2024, 2:18 PM