Ruben Neves says he was on the verge of signing for Barcelona, discusses failed Arsenal move

Portugal and Al-Hilal midfielder Ruben Neves has given credit to the rumours that surrounded him for the best part of a year, confirming that he was close to joining Barcelona. The former Wolves playmaker also discussed a failed move to Arsenal.

It was something of a surprise when Neves, amid interest from a number of major clubs, left Porto as captain to join Wolves, aided by links to his agent Jorge Mendes. Moving to Al-Hilal this summer, Neves for €55m, he never made it to one of the giants in the Premier League or elsewhere.

“I was close to three clubs and finally it didn’t happen, which saddened me and helped me make the decision to go to Al Hilal,” he told O Jogo, as covered by Sport.

“I didn’t want to name names, but Barcelona was one of the hottest and it wasn’t a lie. It almost happened, as happened with Arsenal. Then there was another club outside of England. These were events that accumulated and then, with this golden opportunity, I had no doubts in accepting it. I was already hardened by transfers that do not happen.”

Despite the likes of Aymeric Laporte and Jordan Henderson questioning the Saudi Pro League project, Neves was highly optimistic about its potential.

“Playing in Saudi Arabia doesn’t make me feel any different compared to my colleagues in Europe. My physical ability 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 to go back soon. Following this path, Saudi Arabia could have one of the most important leagues in the world within two years.”

“There is no secret: the quality of the players who arrive is very high. If each team goes for eight foreigners of that level, this almost becomes a PlayStation championship, in which we can choose the players as we wish. I think that I will be here in two years and, who knows, even a little longer.”

Mendes’ links to Barcelona President Joan Laporta meant that Neves was for a long time suggested as a replacement for Sergio Busquets, although apparently Xavi Hernandez fought against his signature. The Blaugrana are still looking for the heir to Busquets, but judging by the fee commanded by Neves, a deal for him would have been out of their reach at any rate.

Tags Al Hilal Arsenal Barcelona Ruben Neves Saudi Arabia
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