Neymar praises Ronaldo’s Saudi impact

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Neymar hails move to “very competitive” Saudi league with Al Hilal, credits Cristiano Ronaldo for driving Saudi Pro League’s growth.


Neymar, the Brazilian forward, has stated that he embraced a “highly competitive” league by joining Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia.

He commended Cristiano Ronaldo for catalyzing the growth of the Saudi Pro League, despite facing skepticism for his move to the Middle East last December.

At 31 years old, Neymar left French champions Paris Saint-Germain to become part of Riyadh-based Al Hilal, who currently hold the title of Asia’s champions. This transfer came at a value of $98.6 million (€90 million).

Although there were speculations linking the former Barcelona star to Manchester United, Chelsea, and a Camp Nou return this summer, Neymar’s first remarks since his move highlighted how Ronaldo’s decision to join Al-Nassr after departing from United during the 2022 World Cup played a role in making Saudi Arabia an attractive destination for him and other top players in the sport.

“I believe Cristiano Ronaldo started all of this and everybody called him ‘crazy,’ and this and that,” Neymar said. “Today you see the league grow more and more.

“The league will be very competitive, especially after the signings made in the summer transfer window. I believe competitiveness is important. That’s why I am joining this league. I am driven by challenges. I am there to help the league grow.

“I am very excited to write a new story chasing all the objectives with the club and my teammates — winning more and more titles and fulfilling the club’s ambition. I am very excited in that regard.”

Neymar, who will reportedly earn an annual salary of $100m (€91.7m) at Al Hilal, brings the number of transfers to Saudi Arabia from Europe’s major leagues (England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal) to more than 30.

And he said that the presence of Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino and others will make the Saudi league exciting and competitive.

“It is exciting, meeting top-quality players on the other teams thrills you, and motivates you to play even better,” Neymar said. “And it is a given when you face Ronaldo, Benzema, Firmino, that the excitement is even greater.

“So I am happy to join this league, facing them will be wonderful, it will be fantastic. Of course a lot of Brazil will be watching the league. Obviously I will be there and I expect all Brazilians and everybody following the league to support Al Hilal.

“The message I have for them is I will do my best to make them enjoy football, our goal is winning all titles.”

The Saudi Pro League has invested over €600 million to lure a host of top players and coaches from European clubs, with other notable arrivals including Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City.

Neymar’s new team, Al Hilal, hosts Al-Feiha in the next round of league matches on Saturday.


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