Jesus and Bono celebrate winning Roshn Saudi League 2023-24 awards

Al Hilal's Jorge Jesus and Yassine Bono have spoken of their pride at receiving the 2023-24 Roshn Saudi League Manager and Goalkeeper of the Season awards.

An incredible campaign for Al Hilal saw the Riyadh club claim an invincible title after winning 31 and drawing three of 34 league matches. Jesus’ men also created football history, and global headlines, by setting a world top-flight record for the number of successive victories. winning 34 games across all competitions between September and April.

Jorge Jesus holding the RSL 2023-24 Manager of the Season award

Appointed last summer for his second stint in charge of Al Hilal, Jesus said: “It was a fantastic season. When I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I was thinking that we could be champions of the league, but not breaking all those records.

"Beyond being champions, we broke so many records: most goals scored [101], most wins [31], best defence [23], biggest points difference with the second-ranked team [14]. In Saudi football history, Al Hilal have broken all the records possible.

“I am very proud of my players; they have so much quality. We made a very strong group; beyond the technical ability, they first thought about the team. This made the successes appear more easily.”

The spine of Al Hilal’s team was a major factor in their success over the season. At the base, goalkeeper Bono, the Moroccan 2022 World Cup hero signed from Sevilla in the summer, was a reassuring presence. By earning 15 clean sheets and conceding the least number of goals, 20, Bono was a deserved winner of the Goalkeeper of the Season award.

"I'm really pleased to win the award, said Bono, who played in 31 of Al Hilal’s 34 league matches during the campaign. "We had a very, very good season. And it was a very good experience for me too. I’m very happy.

"I think all the saves I have made are important. After that, it's thanks to the whole team, to all the people who work around me. It's really a group effort.

“It’s a great pleasure to be goalkeeper of the season. It's not always easy to be consistent in football. This year, more or less, I've been able to find that consistency and now, as I said, I'm really pleased and it's mainly thanks to those around me.”

Edouard Mendy, the Al Ahli goalkeeper who also racked up 15 clean sheets and conceded 33 goals in the league season from the same number of games, ran Bono close for the award.

Yassine Bono holding the RSL 2023-24 Goalkeeper of the Season award

“It's clear there are some very good goalkeepers out there," Bono said. "This year, Edouard showed that he was a top goalkeeper, a very great goalkeeper. He confirmed that throughout the season.”

Al Hilal’s Guinness World Record run made news across the world. Winning 28 games in a row, which in the end increased to 34, overtook Welsh club The News Saints’ run of 27 consecutive wins achieved in 2016-17 season. Prior to that, the record stood for 44 years after Dutch giants Ajax’s 26-game winning streak between 1971 and 1972.

"At the beginning of the season, we weren’t thinking about it; it happened naturally. We were then told about this Guinness World Record – and then told that we could break this record of 27 consecutive wins. It was a motivation that we transmitted to the players, and they loved the idea.

"It was one of the keys to our success this season. Not only the Guinness World Record but the motivation, the objective of winning more than 27 consecutive matches. And we did more than 27 - we won 34 consecutive matches.”

Asked if there was one specific match that stood out across the campaign, Jesus elected a game before the winning run: the 4-3 comeback victory against Al Ittihad in Jeddah on September 1, aided by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s hat-trick. Al Hilal had entered half-time 3-1 down.

"Yes, there are always some games that make the difference during the season," Jesus said. "The game that launched us on our path was the one against Al Ittihad. Our 4-3 victory gave us huge confidence to keep believing in our objectives in the process of our training, and in the process of our games.

"And then, the objective of the Guinness World Record: ‘You have to keep winning, you have to keep winning’. That put the players in a winning mentality. It was one of the key points for the team.”

Jesus previously managed Al Hilal in the 2018-19 season, when he guided the club to Saudi Super Cup success. In between his two stints, he also managed Flamengo in Brazil and Fenerbahce in Turkey. He won trophies at both, much to the delight of each team’s supporters.

To continue a theme, his triumphs at Al Hilal have resulted in similar adoration from the club’s legions of followers.

"Coming from Flamengo, where 70,000 fans in every game were yelling for me, and coming from Turkey, same thing, 50,000 fans, yelling my name in every game... so, I was used to this during my first year in Al Hilal.

"I love you, Jesus. I love you, Jesus’. This is a mark of affection, and this is very important for me to feel that the fans love me.”

The 2023-24 campaign was a game-changing season for the RSL. It began with major internationals signings such as Bono joining the likes of Neymar, Ruben Neves and Mitrovic at Al Hilal, with players like Karim Benzema, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante and Georgino Wijnaldum joining other clubs.

Some 156 players from 54 countries provided a crucial part of the new era in the Saudi top flight.

"During my first stay in Al Hilal, there was not such a quality of great players coming from Europe like now," Jesus said. "Today, the Roshn Saudi League has a very high level - it is a top five league for me. Year after year, more great players will come to the league, and great managers will come as well. It will become a league that is very tough to win.”