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Neymar: Brazilian player becomes latest star to join Saudi Pro League

In a deal exceeding close to $100m, the 31-year-old striker will move from French outfit PSG to Al-Hilal, ending his six-year stint in Paris
Former PSG star Neymar is preparing to join the Saudi Pro League club Al-Hilal (AFP)

Brazilian footballer Neymar has agreed to join Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal for a fee nearing $100m, ending his six-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Subject to formalities to be completed over the next 48 hours, the former Barcelona striker will reportedly earn more than $175m in a contract lasting two years.

According to Sky Sports, PSG's new coach Luis Enrique had been open to selling the 31-year-old in order to create a "younger and hungrier" team.

Al-Hilal have previously been linked to Neymar's former PSG teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, but 2022 World Cup winner Messi joined Inter Miami while Mbappe opted to stay in Paris.

Neymar will be the latest high-profile player to make the move from Europe to Saudi Arabia, joining an illustrious cohort of players, which includes Champions League and domestic title winners.

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In June, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) confirmed it was taking majority stakes in four leading clubs in the country: Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli, in an attempt to establish Saudi football on the international football stage.

Marquee signings

The country's first major scoop was for Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed with Al Nassr in December 2022.

Karim Benzema - the current holder of the Ballon d’Or, football’s highest individual prize - transferred from Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad in June, telling reporters that his Muslim faith played a key role in his decision to move to Saudi Arabia. 

He was followed by Chelsea star N’Golo Kante, who has won two Premier League titles, a Champions League title, and a World Cup, among several other honours. 

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A quartet from Liverpool's 2019 Champions League winning side - Fabinho, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino - will also make the move to Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah-based Al-Ittihad - Al-Hilal’s bitter rival - won the Saudi Pro League last season, under the guidance of Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo. 

Other major arrivals include former Manchester City and Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez and Kalidou Koulibaly, who spent just a year at Premier League side Chelsea before leaving for the Middle East.

The big money deals are Saudi Arabia's attempt to disrupt Europe's football dominance, and the hope among its leaders is that the country's top flight will become as high profile as the European leagues.

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