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Neymar: ‘Saudi Pro League is potentially better than Ligue 1’

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Neymar has claimed that the Saudi Pro League is “maybe” now better than Ligue 1 due to the volume of top-quality players attracted to the division during the recent transfer window.

The 31-year-old represented Paris Saint-Germain between 2017 and 2023, scoring 118 goals and registering 77 assists in 173 appearances for the club, before moving to Al-Hilal last month.

Neymar has joined Bono, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Malcom at the club, who are currently top of the Saudi Pro League with 13 points to show from their first five matches.

Jorge Jesus’s side recorded a standout 4-3 victory over the reigning champions Al-Ittihad last time out, with Mitrovic scoring a hat-trick in Jeddah.

Neymar is yet to make his debut for Al-Hilal due to injury, but he has been forced to defend his switch to the Saudi outfit and claimed that the top division is “maybe” now better than Ligue 1.

“Football is the same there, the ball is round, like everywhere else. Given the big names that make up the league, maybe this league is better than Ligue 1,” L’Equipe quotes Neymar as saying.

“The training sessions are intense. I am hungry for titles, and I want to win with Al-Hilal. What people say doesn’t matter to me. They said that Ligue 1 was weak, but I suffered the most there. [The Saudi league] is going to be interesting and I’m sure you’re going to watch it.”

Neymar has not played since February due to an ankle injury, but he is with the Brazil squad preparing for two World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru.

“I feel well, happy, but obviously I am not 100% fit. But my head is well, my body is well,” the attacker said when asked about his fitness situation.

“I was going to play the latest match [of Al Hilal], but I was hit during training and the coach chose to leave me out, so I could come to Brazil.

“After a lot of pressure from family and friends [to return to the national team] you start giving value to everything you did.

“When you are with your people, your family, they put you in your place and make you see it is worth to continue being happy by wearing Brazil’s shirt.”

Al-Hilal, who are one of four Saudi clubs owned by the Public Investment Fund, could potentially hand a debut to Neymar in their next match against Al Riyadh on September 15.

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F1 great Hamilton kept his Ferrari move so quiet even his parents didn’t know

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Formula 1 great Lewis Hamilton kept his Ferrari move so closely guarded that he didn’t even tell his parents until the day it was announced.

The British driver rocked the F1 world when it was announced on Feb. 1 he was joining the Italian manufacturer next year, despite signing a new contract with Mercedes last summer.

“I didn’t speak to anybody. I didn’t tell my parents till the day of it being announced. So, no one knew,” Hamilton told a BBC podcast. “I really wanted to do it for myself. Ultimately, I had to find out what would be the best for me.”

It then emerged that the two-year deal penned with Mercedes and announced last August was actually for one year with an option for a second year, which Hamilton did not take.

Hamilton informed Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff of his decision to leave only the day before over breakfast at Wolff’s home. They have become close friends over the years after Hamilton joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013.

The 39-year-old Hamilton and Michael Schumacher have a record seven F1 titles each, and Hamilton is the outright leader with 103 race wins and 104 pole positions.

Hamilton has spoken in the past of the lure of racing with Ferrari, where Schumacher won five of his world titles.

“I mean, the opportunity just popped up and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to think for a second,’” Hamilton said. “(But) I didn’t have a lot of time to think and I had to just go with my gut feeling and I decided to take the opportunity.”

Hamilton begins his last season with Mercedes on Saturday at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

His last win was at the Saudi Arabian GP in the penultimate race of the 2021 campaign, where Max Verstappen won the first of his three straight titles with Red Bull.

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The nominees for 2024 Laureus Sports Awards

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Manchester City star Erling Haaland, athletics speedster Sha’Carri Richardson, and Ivory Coast football star Sébastien Haller are among the nominees for the 2024 Laureus Sports Awards.

The Laureus Sports Awards is the most prestigious honour given to sportsmen and women in recognition of an iconic season, and those shortlisted for this year’s honours have done exceptionally well in their various fields.

Football star Haaland, in contention for Sportsman of the Year, scored 52 goals in 53 games during his debut season as City completed the Treble by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Track star Richardson is shortlisted for the Sportswoman of the Year after an exceptional season that saw her become the world’s fastest woman by winning the 100m title at the World Championships in Budapest.

Tennis youngster Gauff made the nomination list for Breakthrough of the Year for her gallant efforts last season, highlighted by winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open.

Also in this category is Real Madrid football star Jude Bellingham, who at age 20, has become a key player for Real Madrid following his 103m euro (£89m) move from Borussia Dortmund last summer, scoring 20 goals in 29 games this season.

Newly crowned AFCON 2023 champion Sébastien Haller is shortlisted in the Comeback of the Year category for his valiant efforts at fighting cancer and coming back to help Ivory Coast become African Champions for the third time in the country’s history.

Here’s the full list of nominees for the 2024 Laureus Sports Awards.

Sportsman of the Year

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) – tennis

Mondo Duplantis (Sweden) – athletics

Erling Haaland (Norway) – football

Noah Lyles (USA) – athletics

Lionel Messi (Argentina) – football

Max Verstappen (Netherlands) – motor racing

Sportswoman of the year

Aitana Bonmati (Spain) – football

Shericka Jackson (Jamaica) – athletics

Faith Kipyegon (Kenya) – athletics

Sha’Carri Richardson (USA) – athletics

Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – skiing

Iga Swiatek (Poland) – tennis

Team of the year

European Ryder Cup Team – golf

Germany men – basketball

Manchester City – football

Red Bull – Formula 1

South Africa – rugby

Spain women – football

Breakthrough of the year

Jude Bellingham (GB) – football

Linda Caicedo (Colombia) – football

Coco Gauff (USA) – tennis

Qin Haiyang (China) – swimming

Josh Kerr (UK) – athletics

Salma Paralluelo (Spain) – football

Comeback of the year

Simone Biles (USA) – gymnastics

Sébastien Haller (Ivory Coast) – football

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (UK) – athletics

Siya Kolisi (South Africa) – rugby

Jamal Murray (Canada) – basketball

Marketa Vondrousova (Czech Republic) – tennis

Sportsperson of the year with a disability

Simone Barlaam (Italy) – swimming

Danylo Chufarov (Ukraine) – swimming

Diede de Groot (Netherlands) – tennis

Luca Ekler (Hungary) – athletics

Nicole Murray (New Zealand) – cycling

Markus Rehm (Germany) – athletics

Action sportsperson of the year

Rayssa Leal (Brazil) – skateboarding

Caroline Marks (USA) – surfing

Kirsten Neuschafer (South Africa) – sailing

Bethany Shriever (GB) – BMX

Filipe Toledo (Brazil) – surfing

Arisa Trew (Australia) – skateboarding

Sport for good

Bola Pra Frente (Brazil) multi-sport & employability

Dancing Grounds (USA) – dancing & social integration

Fundacion Rafa Nadal (Spain) – tennis & education

ISF Cambodia – football & education

Justice Desk Africa (South Africa) – multi-sport & human rights

Obiettivo Napoli (Italy) – multi-sport & inclusion

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South Africa boss Ellis sets sight on Super Falcons clash

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Banyana Banyana of South Africa head coach Desiree Ellis has warned her side against complacency as they bid to set up a clash with eternal rivals, Nigeria.

The Super Falcons defeated Cameroon 1-0 in Abuja on Monday to earn a place in the final round of the 2024 Olympic Games qualifiers.

The African champions will take on Tanzania in the return leg of the third round fixture on Tuesday (today).

Banyana Banyana defeated Tanzania 3-0 away in the first leg last Friday.

Jermaine Seopesenwe, Thembi Kgatlana and Hildah Magaia were on target for the reigning African champions in the game.

The reverse fixture is expected to be an easy affair for South Africa but Ellis is not ready to take anything for granted.

“We have to finish the job back home. We don’t want to become complacent. The next goal in the match could change things,” Ellis told CAFonline.

 

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