According to Ruben Neves, he was close to moving to one of two European top sides, Barcelona or Arsenal, over the summer. Nevertheless, he decided to join Al-Hilal instead.

For much of last season, fans wondered what would happen to the midfielder. He was a hot topic due to his stated goal of joining a Champions League team. Despite intense speculation linking him to Barcelona, Neves ultimately decided to terminate his six-year stint in England.

He expressed his disappointment at not being able to finalize a transfer to Barcelona, calling it a “saddened” move. Furthermore, according to the midfielder, last summer Arsenal was also interested in signing him.

“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.

“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.”

What did Arsenal and Barcelona do instead of Ruben Neves?

Although manager Xavi Hernandez much admired the 26-year-old, he had doubts about the youngster’s capacity to fill Sergio Busquets’s shoes. The Blaugrana are still on the hunt for Busquets’ successor with the Spanish veteran teaming up with Lionel Messi in Miami since the summer.

However, a deal including Neves would have been financially impossible for them given the sum he demanded. Instead, they decided to sign Ilkay Gundogan, a former Manchester City midfielder, for nothing.

Arsenal, on the other hand, could have afforded the Portuguese, but they opted for a deal for Declan Rice for a reported $133 million instead. The Englishman has been outstanding for Mikel Arteta’s North London side this season, and they have made a strong championship push.

How does Neves see Saudi Pro League in the future?

After agreeing to a three-year deal with Al-Hilal, Neves has been a mainstay this year for the team that now leads the Saudi Pro League by seven points. Previously, Aymeric Laporte and Jordan Henderson were among those who cast doubt on the Saudi Pro League initiative.

However, Neves has remained quite hopeful about its prospects: “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.”