Brazilian football superstar Neymar has completed his move from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) to Al Hilal of the Saudi Pro League, ending a topsy-turvy spell at the French club six years after great fanfare greeted his arrival in Paris.
Al Hilal agreed to a reported 90 million euros ($98m) transfer fee with PSG on Monday. The amount would be a record for the league, backed by the oil-rich state, in its spending spree on high-end football talent.
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Neymar has been offered a two-year contract that is expected to pay the 31-year-old Brazil star an annual salary of about $100m – around half of the 38-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo’s reported salary.
“I am here in Saudi Arabia, I am Hilali,” Neymar said in a video posted to Al Hilal’s social media accounts.
— AlHilal Saudi Club (@Alhilal_EN) August 15, 2023
In a statement sent by the league, Neymar said he wants to “write new sporting history, and the Saudi Pro League has tremendous energy and quality players at the moment”.
“Al Hilal is a giant club with fantastic fans, and it is the best in Asia. 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 AlHilal.”
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, in a statement, said: “It is always difficult to say goodbye to an amazing player like Neymar, one of the best players in the world.”
“I will never forget the day he arrived at Paris Saint-Germain, and what he has contributed to our club and our project over the last six years. We had a great moment and Neymar will always be a big part of our history,” he added.
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017 for a world record fee of 222 million euros ($242m), a few weeks before they recruited Kylian Mbappe. He scored 118 goals in 173 matches in six injury-plagued seasons.
He won five Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups, but was on the losing side as PSG were beaten by Bayern Munich in the 2020 Champions League final.
His time at the club has frequently been blighted by injury and he is no longer considered a key player in coach Luis Enrique’s squad, with the likes of 22-year-old Portugal striker Goncalo Ramos changing the profile of the team.
Al Hilal, the most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia, have won 66 trophies and hold the record for the highest number of league and Asian Champions League titles, with 18 and four respectively.
Strengthening the squad is a priority for the Riyadh-based club after the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced in June an investment and privatisation project for sports clubs involving league champions Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al Hilal.