Neymar set to join Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal after PSG agree deal

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The Saudi Pro League season kicked off on Friday after spending close to half a billion dollars luring top players from European powerhouses [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

The 31-year-old Brazilian star, who joined Paris St Germain in 2017, has agreed a two-year deal, Saudi state media says.

Brazil forward Neymar is headed for Saudi Arabia after Pro League side Al Hilal agreed a two-year deal with Paris St Germain, Saudi state media has reported.

There was no immediate comment from the Ligue 1 champions, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, but French newspaper L’Equipe said the deal could net 31-year-old Neymar 160 million euros ($175m).

The transfer fee was reported to be about 90 million euros plus add-ons and subject to completing a medical.

Sources close to the operation told Reuters news agency that Neymar was having a medical in Paris on Monday and was expected to arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday to be presented to fans at King Fahd Stadium.

Al Hilal, managed by Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus, play Al Fayha on Saturday with Neymar expected to wear the number 10 shirt.

Neymar, who joined PSG in 2017 from Spanish club Barcelona for a world record transfer fee of 222 million euros ($243m), missed PSG’s goalless league opener against Lorient on Saturday due to a viral infection.

The Brazilian was contracted to stay in the French capital until 2025 and has 118 goals in 173 appearances, capturing numerous trophies including five Ligue 1 titles.

But his time at the club has frequently been blighted by injury and he is no longer considered a key player in coach Luis Enrique’s squad, with the likes of 22-year-old Portugal striker Goncalo Ramos changing the profile of the team

Multiple sources said Neymar had hoped to return to Barcelona on a loan agreement but the Spanish side’s financial issues had made that unaffordable.

Al Hilal had tried to sign PSG’s France international Kylian Mbappe, who was reinstated into the Paris club’s first team on Sunday.

Mbappe is understood to have indicated his commitment to the club, who have offered him a contract with a “guaranteed sale” clause in it allowing him to seal a move to Real Madrid next summer for a fee. The club had been convinced Mbappe was preparing to let his current deal run out, which would have allowed him to leave Paris and join Real on a free transfer next year.

Al Hilal’s squad currently boasts four international players recently lured from Europe – Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Kalidou Koulibaly and Neymar’s Brazilian compatriot Malcom.

The Saudi side were also reportedly interested in Argentinian Lionel Messi who opted to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami.

The most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia, Al Hilal have won 66 trophies and hold the record for league and Asian Champions League titles, with 18 and four of them respectively.

Strengthening the squad is a priority for the Riyadh-based club, as the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced in June an investment and privatisation project for sports clubs involving league champions Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr and Al Hilal.

The Saudi Pro League season kicked off on Friday after spending close to half a billion dollars luring a host of top players and coaches from European powerhouses.

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al Nassr last season soon after the World Cup in a deal which made him the highest-paid athlete on the planet, while Al Ittihad signed Karim Benzema from Real Madrid.

Champions League winners Riyad Mahrez, Edouard Mendy and Roberto Firmino have all signed for Al Ahli.

The world’s biggest oil exporter has also thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at other sport deals including Formula One in Jeddah, major boxing bouts, and the lucrative LIV Golf tour, drawing frequent claims it is “sportswashing” its dire human rights record.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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