Neymar had to be taken off on a stretcher in the match against Uruguay on October 17 after a nasty tackle by Nicolas de la Cruz. The Brazilian started crying right there on the pitch, and it became immediately clear that the injury was going to be a serious one.
The fans’ worst fears were confirmed two days later, as Neymar issued an official statement revealing that he had suffered a complete ACL and meniscus tear in his left knee. In the same statement, the 31-year-old forward said that Al Hilal and Brazil national team doctors will be working together as he will need to undergo surgery. The exact date of the surgery remains unclear at the time of writing, though.
Anyone who follows football closely understands that the ACL and meniscus injuries are some of the gravest in the sport, especially when the player deals with a complete tear. And besides the surgery, Neymar will also require a lengthy recovery period.
Thus – according to various reports – Neymar will need from six to eight months to return to the pitch, with the recovery period starting on the day after his surgery.
Of course, this is only the most optimistic scenario and will be possible only in case the 31-year-old does not suffer any complications during the recovery process. However, Neymar is at an increased risk of a relapse due to his past muscle and ankle injuries.
What Does it Mean for Al Hilal?
Neymar is undoubtedly one of the most talented players of his generation, but we haven’t had the chance to see him shine at Al Hilal just yet.
The Brazil international arrived in Saudi Arabia carrying a muscle injury so he missed the opening games of the season. Prior to his ACL and meniscus tear, Neymar had made five appearances for Al Hilal and contributed with one goal and three assists.
Despite Neymar’s lengthy absence, Al Hilal proved to be the best team in 2023/24 Saudi Pro League so far, going undefeated in nine matches (7 wins, 2 draws) and sitting in first place.
Even without Neymar, Al Hilal have one of the strongest squads in the league – with Malcom, Yassine Bounou, Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic – only rivalled by Al Nassr and Al Ahli.
For these reasons, we cannot say that Jorge Jesus’s team will suffer too much from Neymar’s injury even if he misses the next six to eight months. Bet365 still see Al Hilal as the favourites to win the 2023/24 Saudi Pro League with 2.10 odds, ahead of Al Ittihad (3.80) and Al Nassr (4.50).
Where Al Hilal may indeed be affected is in the marketing department. Neymar, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, is one of the biggest names in the Saudi Pro League. Without him on the pitch, there certainly will be fewer people coming to the stadium or tuning in to watch them on the TV. The shirt sales are likely to drop, too.
What Does it Mean for Brazil?
Brazil, on the other hand, will certainly miss Neymar on the pitch. The 31-year-old has been their leader in attack for years now, as he recently overtook Pele as the top goalscorer in the national team’s history. For the record, Ney Jr currently sits at 79 goals in 128 appearances for Selecao.
In the coming months, Brazil will be competing in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying. However, the next FIFA World Cup will have six South American teams qualify directly for the tournament. So, unless something goes horribly wrong, Brazil should make it with or without Neymar.
Nevertheless, no Neymar on the pitch will mean that new coach Fernando Diniz will have to take the team’s planning in another direction. The next major tournament for Brazil will be the Copa America 2024 which is due to start in roughly eight months, and it is up in the air whether Neymar will recover in time to take part.
Even if Neymar is back on the pitch in May next year, he will need a certain amount of minutes before he reaches optimal rhythm. In that case, Selecao may decide that it is not worth calling up the forward for Copa America 2024.
This would be a personal tragedy for Neymar as his only trophy to date with Brazil is the FIFA 2013 Confederations Cup. He missed the Copa America 2019 which Brazil won due to injury. And although he was there for the Copa America 2021, Brazil were defeated in the final by Argentina. So, we may well see Neymar retire without a significant trophy with the national team.