Neymar’s blockbuster Al-Hilal contract has not been terminated despite the Brazilian superstar being left out of the Saudi Arabian club’s registration list for the rest of the Saudi Pro League season.
Al-Hilal this week paid around €25 million to sign Brazilian left-back Renan Lodi from Marseille, meaning that he would be the ninth foreigner registered on the club’s books, and Saudi Pro League regulations permit only eight.
Yassine Bounou, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Malcom and Michael are the other foreigners registered by Al-Hilal along with Neymar.
His absence from Al-Hilal’s squad list sparked rumours that the 31-year-old’s contract had been cut up but sources including Fabrizio Romano have moved quickly to shut down those reports.
It was first revealed back in November that Al-Hilal manager Jorge Jesus had requested a top-class left-back who could be registered in the squad instead of Neymar as the former Paris Saint-Germain superstar recovered from injury.
Neymar suffered a devastating anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injury to his left knee during a World Cup qualifying match between Brazil and Uruguay on October 18 and he is not expected to play again until August 2024.
He was in effect taking up space on the domestic registration list and Al-Hilal moved to act through the signing of Renan Lodi from Marseille.
Al-Hilal nightmare continues
Neymar’s spell in Saudi Arabia thus far has been one to forget despite the Brazilian banking a reported €150m in annual wages.
He has played only five times for Al-Hilal following his stunning €90m arrival from PSG last summer, three times in the league and twice in the AFC Champions League for a total of under 400 minutes.
Jorge Jesus this week aimed a dig in the direction of his superstar No.10 by comparing him unfavourably to another mega-money Saudi import in Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has more passion for football and that’s why he puts it as a priority,” the coach said to AS. “Neymar has more passion for other things and puts those other things, which is his private life, first.”
Although Neymar is now ineligible for domestic purposes, if he makes an early comeback from injury he would be entitled to play in international competitions, including the Champions League. The round of 16 commences in February where Al-Hilal face Iranian side Sepahan.
Al-Hilal are on course to win their 19th Saudi title, sitting seven points clear of Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr at the midseason break, winning 17 of their 19 matches so far and drawing the other two.