Brazil forward Neymar has signed for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain, the clubs announced on Tuesday, joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema as the latest big name lured to the oil-rich Gulf state.
“I am here in Saudi Arabia, I am Hilali,” said Neymar, who has penned a two-year deal, in a video posted to Al Hilal’s social media accounts.
“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,” he added.
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017 for a world record fee of €222 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.
Al-Hilal have traditionally been one of Saudi Arabia’s top clubs and have been crowned Asian Champions League winners on four occasions.
NEYMAR GOES AFTER MBAPPE REINTEGRATED
They are coached by Portugal’s Jorge Jesus, who is in his second spell at the club, while the squad currently boasts four international players recently lured from Europe — Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Kalidou Koulibaly and Neymar’s Brazilian compatriot Malcom.
Last month Al-Hilal made a €300-million bid for Mbappe, though the striker reportedly refused to meet with officials from the team.
Neymar’s departure from PSG follows that of Lionel Messi who now plays for Inter Miami in the United States.
It comes barely 48 hours after Mbappe was reinstated to PSG’s first team, ending a stand-off over a contract dispute that had rumbled on for several weeks between the France captain and the Ligue 1 club.
French media reported Mbappe made Neymar’s departure one of the necessary conditions for him to sign a new contract in 2022, when the former was strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid.
While Mbappe is now back in the fold, for the time being at least, Neymar has instead settled for following in the footsteps of Ronaldo, Benzema and Sadio Mane in accepting the Saudi riches on offer.
The deal brings an end to an indifferent relationship with PSG, a club he wanted to leave to return to Barcelona in 2019 before signing a contract extension until 2027.
Paris were open to Neymar leaving last season, but his estimated salary of €30 millions a year put off any potential buyers.
He started the season strongly but was hit by the latest in a series of ankle injuries at the World Cup in Qatar, where he equalled the late Pele’s Brazil record with his 77th international goal –SuperSport.