Cristiano Ronaldo is responsible for transforming the Saudi Pro League, according to Brazil forward Neymar who is looking forward to facing the Portuguese international when he starts playing for Al-Hilal.
The 31-year-old Neymar signed a two-year contract with the Riyadh-based club on Tuesday after spending six years with Paris Saint-Germain, in a deal reportedly worth about $98 million.
Ronaldo, the five-times Ballon d'Or winner, joined Al-Nassr in December on a 2-1/2 year contract following his acrimonious departure from Manchester United.
"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," Neymar said in his first interview after the transfer on Wednesday.
Neymar credits 'crazy' Cristiano Ronaldo for his Saudi Arabia move pic.twitter.com/bH3REPpXL1— GOAL (@goal) August 17, 2023
The Saudi Pro League has since invested over 600 million euros to lure a host of top players and coaches from European clubs.
Notable recruits include Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema from Real Madrid, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City.
"It is exciting, meeting top-quality players on the other teams thrills you and motivates you to play even better. And it is a given when you face Ronaldo, Benzema, (Roberto) Firmino, that the excitement is even greater," Neymar said.
Al-Hilal reappointed Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus on a one-year deal and signed former Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Ruben Neves, Serbia's Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Brazilian striker Malcom.
Saudi Arabia are not here to take part. They're here to take over:Al-Nassr:
➖ Alex Telles
Luis Alberto (Lazio)
➖ Ruben Neves
➖ Malcom… pic.twitter.com/0Qy9CBlgWx
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) August 16, 2023
"I think it is very important to have quality in the squad. Obviously, it helps in some decisions you take throughout you career. It was certainly for me," Neymar said.
"I am very excited to write a new story chasing all the objectives with the club and my team mates – winning more and more titles and fulfilling the club’s ambition."
Al-Hilal host Al-Feiha in the next round of the Saudi Pro League on Saturday.
(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, editing by Ed Osmond)