Al Hilal may have to axe three players after signing Neymar due to AFC Champions League rule


Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal may have to axe three players after signing Neymar due to an AFC Champions League rule.

Al Hilal qualified for the continental competition via their league position last season, having finished in second behind champions Al Ittihad.

They will do so with a host of new talent, mirroring the spending spree by a number of Saudi Pro League clubs this summer.

Al Hilal have completed major moves for Neymar, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves, as well as former Barcelona winger Malcom and Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou from Sevilla.

Other recently signed foreign stars at the club include defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who joined from Chelsea, and midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

With each club in the Saudi Pro League only permitted to have eight foreign players in their squad, Al Hilal have had to reshape their squad.

Former Porto star Moussa Marega was released, while Luciano Vietto, Odion Ighalo and Andre Carrillo have all joined other clubs in the division. Ecuador midfielder Gustavo Cuellar was sold to Al Shabab.

But they may have to allow yet more players to leave ahead of their AFC Champions League pursuit.

Al Hilal may have to sell players ahead of AFC Champions League

When it comes to registering squads for the AFC Champions League, clubs are only permitted to register five players born outside of Asia.

The rule has been updated for this season, with clubs previously only allowed to field four foreign players in total in the competition.

Al Hilal still have South Korean center-back Jang Hyun-soo on their books – but have eight non-Asian players in their squad.

With seven of those signed this summer, the rule presents the Saudi Pro League side with a significant issue.

They may have to move on three players, therefore, in order to fulfil the squad criteria, or simply be unable to register them.

But with all seven of their new signings joining from European clubs that will play in continental competitions this season – with the exception of Malcom, who signed from Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg – you would imagine they would not be too impressed to not be involved in Asia’s biggest club competition.

Al Hilal is also in talks with PSG over a move for Marco Verratti, according to Fabrizio Romano, meaning another foreign player could be forced to make way if he signs.