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Asian Champions League: Neymar no distraction for Mumbai City FC

Source: PTI
August 25, 2023 16:39 IST
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Al-Hilal's latest signing Neymar could pose a few challenges to Mumbai City FC defenders

IMAGE: Al-Hilal's latest signing Neymar could pose a few challenges to Mumbai City FC defenders. Photograph: Ahmed Yosri//Reuters

The prospect of facing Neymar and the rest of Al-Hilal's expensively assembled squad is "exciting", said Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham after the Indian side were drawn against the Saudi outfit in this year's Asian Champions League.

The reigning Indian champions will be making their second appearance in the continental championship when it kicks off in September and were drawn to face the Brazilian and the big-spending four-times champions in the group stages on Thursday.


"I think anyone that's seen the movement in some of these teams, and Neymar being the latest to arrive there, it's exciting," Buckingham told the club's official media.

"They're bringing that calibre and quality of player to India, which is going to be extremely exciting for us and for our club but also for the fans of India to come and see that level of player."

Mumbai City made their debut in the competition last year but were eliminated in the group phase, twice losing heavily to Saudi side Al-Shabab.

Those defeats were sustained before Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought majority shareholdings in four of the country's leading clubs, initiating a spending spree that has seen some of world's leading talent move to the country.

Al-Hilal were among the clubs purchased and they have since signed Neymar from Paris St Germain for around 100 million euros ($108 million) as well as adding Portugal's Ruben Neves and striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to a line-up that also features 11 of Saudi Arabia's 2022 World Cup squad.

Those big name arrivals have given Asia's continental championship a major boost but, while the meeting with Al-Hilal has captured the attention, Mumbai City will also face off against Navbahor from Uzbekistan and Iran's Nassaji Mazandaran.

The club's campaign will begin against Nassaji Mazandaran on September 18 in Pune, with only the group winners guaranteed a place in the next round.

"On the pitch it will be good, but it's the same as the other clubs," Buckingham said of the challenge his team faces.

"They're very good players and champions in their own right and we need to make sure now that we focus on what we want to do.

"We'll try and enjoy it whilst also trying to play the football we all want to see."

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