Brazil’s soccer superstar has arrived in Saudi Arabia.
Neymar has signed with Al-Hilal, a top Saudi club that finished runner-up at the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup in January. Al-Hilal officially announced the signing of Neymar on Jan. 16. While details of the contract and salary are unknown, according to transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano, Neymar has signed a two-year deal with Al-Hilal, with annual payments of $150 million, for a total of $300 million, or $407 million USD.
Neymar has spent the last six years at French top-flight club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and still has time left on his contract. The transfer fee is also not officially known, but it could be up to 140 million euros ($204.7 billion).
The move will bring Neymar to the Middle East after exactly 10 years in Europe, having joined FC Barcelona from Brazilian side Santos in 2013. Neymar scored 105 goals in 186 official appearances for Barcelona before moving to PSG in 2017, where he spent six years, scoring 118 goals in 173 appearances. During that time, he won two Spanish La Liga titles, five French Ligue 1 titles, one UEFA Champions League title and one runner-up finish, three Spanish Copa del Rey titles, and three French Cups.
Al-Hilal was heavily linked with world-class strikers such as Lionel Messi, who was out of contract at PSG, and Kylian Mbappe, who had a bitter falling out with PSG, but failed to land either of them and entered the new season without a superstar. However, when Neymar hit the market in dramatic fashion, the power of “oil money” was used to secure his signature. Neymar initially considered a move to his hometown club Barcelona, but after failing to get Messi without a transfer fee, Barcelona sold him to American club Inter Miami.
That’s when Alhilal stepped in to secure Neymar. Neymar responded positively and chose to move to the Middle East.
In addition to a total salary of 400 million won, Neymar will enjoy a number of perks in Saudi Arabia. First of all, he can live with his girlfriend regardless of Islamic law. This means he doesn’t have to get married. This is the same as when Cristiano Ronaldo brought his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez to live with him in Al-Nasr, Saudi Arabia, in January.
In addition, he has the unusual option of being paid $700 million for every post he makes promoting Saudi Arabia, a plane to travel the world, and a top-of-the-line luxury home with butlers. In essence, the Saudi government stepped in and recruited Neymar.
On the one hand, it’s a bittersweet move.
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017 for €222 million ($324.6 billion), the highest transfer fee in world soccer history, a record that has yet to be broken. After being acquired by the Qatari government, PSG became a dominant force in France but failed to make much of an impact on the European stage and were looking for a breakthrough.
Neymar was 25 years old and in the prime of his career, and his father was very supportive of him leaving Barcelona for PSG, and Neymar respected his family’s wishes, choosing to be a number one at PSG rather than a number two in Messi’s shadow at Barcelona.
However, Neymar’s life in Paris was not as easy as he expected. For one thing, many African players didn’t adapt to the rough and tumble style of Ligue 1. Injuries have also been a problem for Neymar, and this year he was ruled out for the season in February after breaking his ankle after being brought down by a foul. This has had a major impact on his playing time, reducing his total to 173 games over six years, or less than 30 games per year in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League combined.
On top of that, Neymar himself didn’t seem to have much of a connection to Paris. As if the fans weren’t aware, PSG’s most vocal supporters protested outside Neymar’s Paris home last spring after watching their favorite team’s shocking Champions League round of 16 exit. As recently as July, Neymar expressed his desire to continue playing for PSG. He had almost completed his rehabilitation and was included in PSG’s roster for their Asia tour. He missed all three games in Japan, but made his comeback in South Korea, playing the full 90 minutes against Busan Jeonbuk, scoring two goals and providing one assist.
But that was it, as Neymar went on vacation and PSG suddenly announced that they were releasing him. The shocking news came on the 15th, when Mbappe, who had returned to the PSG training ground after a bitter falling out with the club, reportedly asked the club to release Neymar. Neymar was effectively forced out by his junior.
PSG also had to resolve the conflict with Mbappe to sell him for a transfer fee, so they granted Mbappe’s request and accelerated Neymar’s transfer. In the end, Alhilal, who was targeting Messi and Mbappe, took advantage of the internal dynamics of the PSG club to get the superstar.
For Korean fans, Neymar’s move to Alhilal was a disappointment. After signing a five-year contract with PSG earlier this month, Neymar was the one who looked out for him the most. During his Asia tour, which took him to Japan and South Korea, Neymar always stuck by Lee, and the two had fantastic chemistry, including sitting next to each other on the bus and playing pranks on each other.
The chemistry was expected to continue on the field as the season progressed, but with Neymar’s departure, it’s hard to see it again. The ‘Strong Mar’ partnership ended after one game against Jeonbuk.
Al-Hilal, which Neymar will be joining, is considered to be a strong team with a number of Saudi national team players, even without the signing of a big European star this summer. The 69-year-old Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus is at the helm and has upgraded his squad this summer with the arrivals of Leo Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Wolverhampton, Chelsea and Lazio respectively. Add to that a “game-changer” in Neymar, and you have the makings of an Asian powerhouse.
Last season, they finished third in the Saudi top flight and booked their place in the 2023/24 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
Neymar’s arrival at Al-Hilal is big news not only for Al-Hilal, but for Saudi professional soccer as a whole. The Saudi top flight has been spending oil money like crazy to acquire some of Europe’s top players, with Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, Al-Nasr, and Al-Ahli, the four teams that are majority owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Since Ronaldo, who, along with Messi, dominated world soccer in the 2000s, joined Al-Nasr on Jan. 1 for an annual salary of 200 million euros ($280 billion), the Saudi soccer world has been stunning the world by spending huge amounts of money on players since July, the European soccer transfer season.
In addition to Ronaldo, Al-Nasr brought in Sadio Mane, last year’s Ballon d’Or runner-up, from Bayern Munich, as well as Inter Milan’s big midfielder Mario Brozovic. The Red Devils also made a splash by signing last year’s Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, while N’Golo Kante, a French international defensive midfielder who had an era at Chelsea, Liverpool midfielder Fabinho, and Celtic striker Diogo Jota have all arrived in recent months.
Promoted side Arsenal are also knocking on the door of the top flight, having secured Roberto Firmino, the ‘Liverpool football guru’, Riyad Mahrez, who led Leicester City and Man City to glory, and Frank Kessie and Alain Saint-Maximin, who played for Barcelona and Newcastle respectively. Another team to keep an eye on is Al Etihad, who are not majority owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund but have brought in Liverpool legendary midfielders Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson as manager and player respectively.안전놀이터
Neymar could make his Middle East debut as early as Aug. 19 in a Saudi first division match against Al-Fayha, which kicks off at 8 p.m. Gerrard’s Al Etihad on Aug. 28 and a trip to rivals Al Ittihad on Sept. 1 are the next opponents Neymar must overcome.