“I’m very excited”

Brazilian forward Neymar poses for a picture in the team’s uniform during a signing ceremony in Paris on August 15, 2023
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Copyright © africanews

-/AFP

By Africanews

Neymar

Neymar said he was relishing “new challenges and opportunities in new places” after he joined Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year deal Tuesday.

The Brazil forward, 31, ends a six-year stay in the French capital and follows in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane in swapping Europe for the Middle East.

“I have achieved a lot in Europe and enjoyed special times, but I have always wanted to be a global player and test myself with new challenges and opportunities in new places,” Neymar said in a statement from the Saudi Pro League.

“I want to write new sporting history, and the Saudi Pro League has tremendous energy and quality players at the moment,” he added.

“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 Al-Hilal.”

Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017 for a world record fee of 222 million euros ($242 million), a few weeks before they recruited Kylian Mbappe.

The Brazilian scored 118 goals in 173 matches for PSG, winning five Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups, but his time at PSG was blighted by a catalogue of injuries.

Although he helped the club to the 2020 Champions League final, which they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich, he was sidelined for key games.

Neymar underwent surgery on his right ankle in early March, only returning to join PSG on their pre-season tour of Asia.

However, he no longer figured in new coach Luis Enrique’s plans and was immediately linked with a move to Al-Hilal, where he will earn “100 million euros a season”, according to a source close to the negotiations.

PSG will not come close to recouping the fee they paid for Neymar but will still pocket close to 100 million euros as well, according to the same source.

“It is always difficult to say goodbye to an amazing player like Neymar, one of the best players in the world,” said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in a statement from the French champions.

“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.”

Al-Hilal have traditionally been one of Saudi Arabia’s top clubs and have been crowned Asian Champions League winners on four occasions.

They are also one of the four clubs — along with Al-Nassr, Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad — owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

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