Neymar arrives in Saudi Arabia for unveiling ceremony


Neymar’s arrival in Saudi Arabia has stirred excitement and anticipation as he becomes the latest addition to the roster of prominent figures drawn to the oil-rich nation. The Brazilian football star, aged 31, touched down in Riyadh to join Al-Hilal, following a distinguished six-season tenure with Paris Saint-Germain, the French champions.

Escorted by heightened security measures, Neymar landed at a Riyadh airport on Friday, setting the stage for his unveiling as an Al-Hilal player scheduled for Saturday. The airport lounge was a bustling hub of activity, teeming with club officials and media, where Neymar proudly displayed a sizeable diamond-studded cross around his neck as he posed for photographs.

The grandeur of his reception is set to amplify as Neymar is slated for a rock star-style welcome at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Thousands of enthusiastic fans will witness his unveiling on Saturday.

An anonymous Al-Hilal official commented, “We are preparing a magnificent celebration that befits the vibrancy of the samba dancer.” This statement underscores the anticipation surrounding Neymar’s debut in Saudi Arabia.

Neymar’s lucrative two-year contract with Al-Hilal reportedly promises an annual salary of approximately 100 million euros. This puts him in the company of other esteemed players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Sadio Mane, who have chosen to shift from European leagues to the Saudi Pro League, a destination that is increasingly attracting high-profile talents.

During his time at PSG, Neymar notched an impressive tally of 118 goals in 173 matches, securing five Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups. However, his tenure was marred by a series of injuries. While he contributed to PSG’s presence in the 2020 Champions League final, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich, Neymar missed key matches due to various injuries.

After undergoing surgery on his right ankle in early March, Neymar marked his return by joining PSG on their pre-season tour of Asia.

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious sports acquisitions, driven by its substantial oil wealth, have been instrumental in diversifying its economy and attracting tourism and investments. Despite facing criticism for its human rights track record, the conservative monarchy made a significant statement by purchasing English club Newcastle United in 2021, the same year it hosted its inaugural Formula One Grand Prix.

With substantial oil-derived funds at their disposal, Saudi Arabia’s sports investment spree appears poised to continue. The nation, which shares borders with Qatar (host of the 2022 World Cup), is speculated to enter the bidding for a future World Cup, possibly collaborating with Egypt and Greece for a unique tri-continental edition.

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