RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Neymar is set to complete a move to the Saudi Pro League after Al Hilal agreed a reported 90 million euros ($98 million) transfer fee with Paris Saint-Germain on Monday.
The fee would be a record for the league, backed by the oil-rich state, in its spending spree on high-end soccer talent.
Al Hilal could finally seal a statement signing to match Al Nassr, its city rival in Riyadh, which lured Cristiano Ronaldo in January. Recent offers to Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, teammates of Neymar last season at French champion PSG, were not accepted.
Neymar has reportedly been offered a two-year contract expected to pay the 31-year-old Brazil star an annual salary of about $100 million. That would be around half of the 38-year-old Ronaldo’s reported salary.
Neymar and PSG agreed last week he could leave although his widely reported preference, like Messi several weeks ago, was on returning to their former club Barcelona.
Barcelona’s troubled finances make such deals tough and Messi instead chose Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami in June.
Al Hilal is one of four storied Saudi clubs effectively nationalized by the sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF), which claims assets of about $700 billion. They include the LIV Golf series that challenged the PGA Tour before the two organizations agreed to join forces.
PIF is chaired by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose ambitions in global sports have become a signature policy.
Neymar’s signing was making progress on the day of the season-opening league game for Al Hilal, a record 18-time national champion.
Al Hilal was playing at Abha and giving league debuts to Brazilian winger Malcom and Portugal midfielder Rúben Neves, who cost the two previous most expensive transfer fees paid by a Saudi club. They were priced, respectively, at a reported 60 million euros ($65 million) from Zenit St. Petersburg and 55 million euros ($60 million) from Wolverhampton.
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