Neymar claim Saudi League could top Ligue 1 already


Brazilian football star Neymar (L) and Al-Hilal's president Fahad bin Nafel (R) pose for a photo with an Al Hilal jersey as Neymar joins Al-Hilal with a two-year contract in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on August 15, 2023. 

Saudi Arabia's football league could already be stronger than France's Ligue 1, says Brazil captain Neymar.

The 31-year-old forward moved to the Saudi Pro League from Paris St-Germain in August for about £77.5m and add-ons.

Neymar joined Al-Hilal in a transfer window that saw Saudi clubs spend more than £700m on overseas players.

"For the names that went to Saudi Arabia, I wouldn't be surprised if the Saudi league is better than the French," he said.

Saudi clubs' spending this summer on international transfers was second only to the Premier League, whose teams spent just under £1.6bn on overseas deals, according to figures from football governing body Fifa.

While Al-Ittihad were unable to prise Mohamed Salah away from Liverpool, Salah's former team-mates Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho were among the Premier League players to move to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi clubs also lured Neymar's PSG club-mate Georginio Wijnaldum, Real Madrid's Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema and Bayern Munich's Sadio Mane.

Others to make the switch to the Saudi Pro League have included Inter Milan's Champions League final captain Marcelo Brozovic, Barcelona's Franck Kessie, Celtic's Jota and Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

There could have been a new world-record transfer too. PSG gave Al-Hilal permission to talk to Kylian Mbappe after making a £259m bid, but the forward opted to stay with the French champions and Neymar was sold instead.

Neymar helped PSG win five Ligue 1 titles although his time in Paris was hampered by ankle injuries after moving from Barcelona for a record fee of £200m in 2017.

Speaking at a news conference while on Brazilian international duty, Neymar said: "I can assure you the football in Saudi Arabia is the same. The ball is round, we have goalposts.

"There's no secret. We have intense practice there, the thirst to win is still big.

"I want to win trophies with Al-Hilal. It doesn't change much."

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