‘Intense’ – Neymar insists Saudi Pro League ‘is the same’ as Ligue 1 as 31yo defends Al-Hilal switch

Jason Soutar
Neymar is presented as an Al-Hilal player.
Neymar is presented as an Al-Hilal player.

Former Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has hinted that the Saudi Pro League is on its way to becoming a stronger league than Ligue 1 following his move to Al-Hilal.

Neymar completed a €90million (£77.1million) move to the Middle East this summer, meaning he has cost clubs a cool €400m across his career.

The Brazilian had spent six years in the French capital and actually had four years left on his contract when he left last month.

PSG are clearly looking to enter a new era and want to build around Kylian Mbappe, meaning they were more than happy to see the back of Neymar, and Lionel Messi to an extent.

Although Mbappe – arguably the best player in the world – is still playing in France, Neymar has said that the Saudi Pro League is on course to become a stronger division than Ligue 1.

The 31-year-old insists the standard of football is not different and believes people are saying the same about his move to Al-Hilal as they did when he left Barcelona to join PSG in 2017.

“I assure you that football there is the same,” Neymar said during a press conference on Friday. “The ball is round, there is a goal. Because of the names that have gone to the Saudi league…I don’t know if it is better than the French one.

Saudi Arabia transfer window winners and losers: Liverpool, Boehly, Manchester United, Henderson

“The training pace is intense, the thirst to win is great. I want to win titles with Al-Hilal.

“Nothing changes in my head. People say that the championship is not known, that it is weak… everyone said that when I went to the French championship and it was the place where I suffered the most in.

“It’s not going to be easy to win the Saudi championship because there are other teams that have gotten stronger, there are well-known players and I’m sure it’s going to be a very interesting league and that you’re going to see it,” said the Brazilian.

It was a bonkers summer transfer window with the Saudi Arabian top-flight grabbing a lot of the headlines.

Al-Hilal spent €353m on new players, also signing Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ruben Neves, Bono, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Malcom.

The busiest Saudi clubs are all owned by Newcastle United’s owners PIF, who did their best to bring the biggest stars to the Middle East.

Neymar has joined N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Fabinho (Al-Ittihad), Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Otavio, Seko Fofana, Marcelo Brozovic, Aymeric Laporte (Al-Nassr), and Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq) in the list of big names to make the move this summer.

FEATURE: A heroic XI of players who rejected ‘crazy’ Saudi Arabia riches this summer as window closes