LONDON (AP) — Kalidou Koulibaly became the latest soccer star to head to Saudi Arabia on Sunday after joining Al-Hilal from Chelsea on a three-year contract.
The Senegal international has followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante by opting to play in the lucrative Saudi Pro League.
Al-Hilal, Saudi’s most successful team, this week also signed Portugal international Ruben Neves from Wolverhampton.
“From London Blues to Asia’s Leader,” Al-Hilal tweeted when announcing Koulibaly’s arrival.
Financial details were not revealed.
The 32-year-old center back only spent a year at Chelsea — after signing from Napoli on a four-year contract last summer — and played 32 games for the club in all competitions. He is part of a raft of expected departures from Chelsea to various destinations, including Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku.
“We would like to thank Kalidou for his contributions on and off the pitch during his time at Stamford Bridge and wish him well for the next stage of his career,” Chelsea said.
Koulibaly was seen as one of Europe’s top defenders before joining Chelsea, but was part of a hugely disappointing season for the London club, which saw it finish 12th in the Premier League.
“From my first game to my last, it was an honor to wear this badge,” he tweeted. “Last season wasn’t the one we wanted, but I want to thank the fans and everyone at the club for your support”
Saudi soccer has embarked on an ambitious recruitment drive this summer as it targets a host of players from Europe’s top leagues.
Al-Hilal was reportedly leading the chase for Lionel Messi before the Argentine great opted for a move to Inter Miami. But that has not stopped the Saudi league’s attempts to bring in more leading players, with Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Manchester United’s Alex Telles also linked.
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