Neymar Jr. became the latest in a long line of players to make a move to the Middle East when he joined Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal from French giant Paris Saint-Germain, but the Brazilian superstar credits one of his rivals for starting the country’s soccer boom.
“I believe Cristiano Ronaldo started all of this and everybody called him ‘crazy,’ and this and that. Today, you see the league grow more and more,” the former PSG forward told Al Hilal’s social channels.
Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half year contract reported to be worth more than 200 million euros ($220.16 million) with Al-Nassr in December 2022 after leaving Manchester United.
Since then, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Marcelo Brozović have been among the star names to move to the Saudi Pro League.
Neymar says that he wants to follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps and help develop the league even further.
“I am driven by challenges,” said Neymar after making the move. “Obviously, when you face a challenge like this it boosts your self-esteem. I am there to help the league grow more and more.
“They are already changing a lot; they have made a lot of signings. Yes, surely the league will be very competitive especially after the signings made in this summer transfer window.”
The Brazilian forward spent six years with PSG, winning 13 major trophies along the way. However, the prestigious prize of winning the Champions League eluded the 31-year-old in the French capital.
Neymar played in a star-studded front three alongside Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi while in the City of Light. Unfortunately for soccer fans, the trio never reached the heights spectators were expecting and have since gone their separate ways with Mbappé the lone survivor in Paris – though his future is far from certain with the French club.
Neymar will now star for Al Hilal alongside the likes of Sergej Milinković-Savić, Rúben Neves and Malcom who have also made summer moves to the club.