Neymar Joins Al-Hilal: Are The Brazilian Superstar And Saudi Arabian Giants The Perfect Fit For Each Other?

Published on 17 August 2023 at 13:00

Former Barcelona and Paris Saint-German superstar Neymar is the latest big name to make the move from European Football to Saudi Arabia. Joining Al-Hilal and on an annual wage worth hundreds of millions, is the 31-year-old Brazilian's transfer a match made in heaven, or one step too far in the Saudi Pro League's efforts to cement itself as a top league in the beautiful game?


The 2023 Summer transfer window seemingly went off the rails when Moises Caicedo went for a triple digit figure to Chelsea. Just under 24 hours later, the train officially went off the rails when Neymar, one of football's biggest stars and a player who many perceived as still being able to 'do it' at an elite level, made the move to Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al-Hilal.


Following the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kante in making the move from Europe's top 5 leagues to the Middle East, there definitely feels like there's something 'different' about Neymar's transfer compared to the aforementioned names.  


Neymar was, and still is, an undeniably brilliant footballer, but has endured a torrid time at PSG since his move in 2017: persistently struck by injuries and failing to win the Champions League even alongside Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, Neymar leaves Europe with still so much unfulfilled potential for a man once heralded to be the heir to Messi and Ronaldo as the best player in the world. In comparison, Mane, Benzema, Kante et al achieved glory and trophies beyond their wildest dreams, so a move to Saudi Arabia in the twilight of their careers can be looked at as a more 'logical' move.


Neymar's supposed end game has been slowly reported in the press: to play a couple of years in the Saudi Pro League, before returning to the top 5 leagues (preferably at former club Barcelona) and allowing himself to return to competitive form ahead of the 2026 World Cup.


So what value is there for Al-Hilal in securing Neymar's services when he's seemingly so set on leaving in such a short span of time? 


It's been reported that the Saudi Arabian higher-ups are advocating for a spot in the UEFA Champions League, and intent to send a proposal to UEFA about its feasibility. With the Champions League confirmed to expand its numbers from next season, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that UEFA follows the Copa America/Gold Cup approach and starts inviting teams from outside the continent to participate (like how both Qatar and Japan have been invited in these above tournaments), Al-Hilal will surely be one of the favourites should this plan come to fruition, particularly with their newest major acquisition.


With Neymar standing as the most gifted player plying his trade in the Middle East, and for the country's most impressive team as well? A spot in the Champions League with Neymar as the star of the side could genuinely see Al-Hilal progress far in future tournaments. 

Additionally, many fans and players alike have cited Ronaldo as being an inspiration for players to make the daunting move to the Saudi Pro League, could there be hope invested in Neymar that he will inspire other talent to move to the KSA. As the leading light of his country's footballing scene, even young Brazilians may be inspired by Neymar to make the move like they did for China, Russia and Ukraine in the late 2000s and mid 2010s, which had a strong domino effect of these Brazilian talents switching international allegiances to the their new home: Saudi Arabia. 


Ultimately, only time will tell for the Saudi Pro League if all of these major signings and 'coups' are worth it for the footballing infrastructure in the country and beyond its borders into the rest of Asia. 


While there is doubt people will tune in to watch the inevitable clashes between Ronaldo's Al-Nassr, Neymar's Al-Hilal, Mahrez's Al-Ahli and more, there's currently a similar situation to Messi in the MLS: players so far and above the average quality of the current domestic talent that it's difficult to take the league seriously.


Ultimately, it's likely to take more than just the two years Neymar expects to be in Saudi Arabia for the desired impact his signing will bring to truly come into effect. 



What are your thoughts on Neymar's big transfer to Al-Hilal? Do you think he will succeed or fail to make an impact in the Middle East? Let us know your thoughts today over on our official Twitter and in the comments below!

- By Jaspar Shepherdson (@jasparshepmedia)


Add comment


There are no comments yet.