Ruben Neves admits he was 'close' to joining Arsenal or Barcelona before Al Hilal switch

  • Neves left Wolves last summer after admitting his desire to compete for trophies
  • Despite interest from Arsenal & Barcelona, midfielder opted to move to Saudi Arabia
  • Portugal international is open to a return to Europe

Neves could have stayed in Europe
Neves could have stayed in Europe / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

Al Hilal midfielder Ruben Neves has admitted he was close to joining Arsenal or Barcelona last summer before his switch to Saudi Arabia.

Neves entered the final year of his contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers last summer and openly confessed his desire to play for a team competing for trophies, sparking interest from some of Europe's top sides.

It was Al Hilal who ultimately won the race for Neves' signature, parting with a cool £47m to get a deal done, but the midfielder has now confessed he came close to staying in Europe.

"I was close to three clubs and it ended up not happening, which saddened me and helped me make the decision to go to Al Hilal," Neves confessed to O Jogo. "I didn't want to mention names, but Barcelona was one of the hottest and it wasn't a lie. It was close to happening, just like with Arsenal.

"Then there was another club outside England. These were events that happened and then, with this golden opportunity, I had no doubts about accepting it. I was already hardened by transfers that didn't happen."

Ruben Neves
Neves had interest from some top sides / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

Still only 26 years old, Neves insisted he is open to a return to Europe at some point down the line but added he is in no rush to call time on his Middle Eastern exploits.

"Playing in Saudi doesn't make me feel any different compared to my colleagues in Europe," he continued. "My physical capacity is great. I'm on track to, one day, be able to return to Europe and play at the highest level.

"But, to be honest, I don't plan on returning anytime soon. Taking this path, Saudi could have one of the most important leagues in the world within two years. There is no secret: the quality of the players that arrive is extremely high. If each team bets on eight foreigners of that level, this almost becomes a PlayStation championship, in which we can choose the players at will. I believe I will be here in two years and, who knows, even a little longer."

Neves has four goals and six assists to his name from 28 appearances for Al Hilal, who sit seven points clear of Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr at the top of the Saudi Pro League standings.