How Brazilian signings from 2022 are performing in the Saudi Pro League

The Saudi Public Investment Fund poured nearly a billion dollars into signing star players.
Desmond Efe-Khaese
2024-05-15 13:05:38

The arrival of Brazilian talents like Neymar, Malcom, and Alex Telles in Saudi Arabia, turned the league into a magnet for global attention. With their rich European experience and flair, these players have been instrumental in elevating the league’s quality and competitive edge.

Now that the 2023-24 season is in full swing in a league not widely watched, we’ve revisited some of the Saudi Pro League’s major Brazilian acquisitions to evaluate their progress.


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Neymar made a headline-grabbing move to Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League on August 15, 2023, for a record €90 million transfer fee. His annual salary at Al Hilal is €150 million, significantly higher than what he earned at PSG. Although Barcelona expressed interest, the high costs associated with his transfer deterred other top European clubs.

Neymar himself has spoken highly of the Saudi league’s potential, suggesting it might even surpass the French league in terms of quality. He made a promising start with Al Hilal, assisting a goal in their 6–1 win during his debut on September 15, and scoring his first goal for the club on October 3. Unfortunately, a knee injury in October ended his season early, prompting Al Hilal to deregister him in January 2024.


Zenit transferred Malcom to Al Hilal for €60 million on 23 July 2023. He debuted on 5 August, scoring in a 3–1 Arab Club Champions Cup win, and netted a hat trick in his league debut against Abha on 14 August. He also contributed to Al Hilal’s 2023 Saudi Super Cup victory.


Roberto Firmino moved to Al Ahli on 4 July 2023, signing a contract through 2026. He made a stunning debut on 11 August 2023, scoring a hat-trick against Al-Hazem. In that match, Firmino showcased his scoring prowess, converting two excellent assists from Riyad Mahrez.


Anderson Talisca joined Al Nassr in May 2021 for $9.5 million and extended his contract until 2026 in April 2023. He scored crucial hat-tricks against Al-Raed in December 2022 and Al-Duhail SC in November 2023. Talisca continued to impact games significantly, notably scoring twice in a tight 3–2 win over Al-Shabab.

Alex Telles

Alex Telles secured a transfer to Al Nassr from Manchester United on 23 July 2023, following a recommendation from Cristiano Ronaldo. Telles, who had won the Arab Club Champions Cup with Al Nassr, expressed admiration for Ronaldo’s career and influence. His assist contributions have been crucial for Al Nassr, who are closely chasing the league leaders.

Final note

Saudi media report that the Saudi Football League’s $957 million investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund hasn’t significantly improved competition, fan turnout, or international success. The funds targeted four main clubs: Al-Hilal, Al-Nasr, Al-Ahly, and Al-Ittihad, with Al-Hilal standing out due to a notable 34-match winning streak.

Despite their domestic success, Al-Hilal’s dominance raises concerns about the fair distribution of talent, as shown by their decisive victories of 9-0, 7-0, and 6-1 over their competitors. On the international stage, the performance is lacking. Al-Ittihad, enhanced by stars like Benzema and N’Golo Kante, exited the Club World Cup with a 1-3 defeat against Egypt’s Al-Ahly.

Remembering Zagallo

Sambafoot Series launched a new documentary about the football legend Zagallo. Known as ‘Velho Lobo‘ and as superstitious as it gets, Zagallo helped shape what Brazilian football is nowadays — as a player and as a coach.

Binge the first five episodes available on Sambafoot’s Youtube channel. Stay tuned for upcoming releases as we keep telling this legend’s life story.