SAO PAULO: Brazil striker Neymar defended his decision to play with Saudi football club Al-Hilal, saying the Saudi Pro League “might be better” than the French Ligue 1.
Speaking at a press conference with the Brazil national team, Neymar said the string of high-profile players who have recently moved to the Middle East raised the competitiveness of the Saudi league and made it a strong league to compete with.
“I assure you that football there (in Saudi Arabia) is the same. The ball is round, there is a goal. Because of the names that have gone to the Saudi league... I don't know if it is better than the French one,” Neymar was quoted saying in the British news outlet Daily Mail.
Of joining Al-Hilal, Neymar said the training sessions “are pretty intense.”
“I’m thirsty for titles. I want to win with Al-Hilal. For me, it doesn’t change anything, and it doesn’t matter what people say.”
Neymar added, “People say that the championship is not known, that it is weak... everyone said that when I went to the French championship, and it was the place where I suffered the most,” Neymar said, as quoted in Daily Mail.
He assured his fans worldwide that playing in the Saudi league would be an “interesting championship.”
“It’s not going to be easy to win the Saudi championship because there are other teams that have gotten stronger, there are well-known players and I'm sure it's going to be a very interesting league and that you're going to see it.”
Neymar signed a two-year contract with the Al-Hilal football club in August in a $98 million deal after six years with Paris St. Germain, but hasn’t yet played for the new club.
During the press conference, he said he is not fully fit to play in the two opening rounds of World Cup qualifying due to the right ankle injury that has sidelined him since February.
He joined football stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Riyad Mahrez and Jordan Henderson who recently made the move to the Saudi Pro League.