Argentinian Lionel Messi could soon join the very lucrative Saudi Arabia, where a “huge” offer has been submitted to him, after two years without much brilliance at Paris Saint-Germain from the seven-time Ballon d’Or.
The oil-rich Gulf kingdom is offering an “exceptional”, “enormous” gold bridge to the 35-year-old world champion, a source in Riyadh close to the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday.
The recruitment of the “Pulga”, by the Saudi sovereign fund (PIF) and for a club not yet determined, is “a done deal”, insisted this source on condition of anonymity, referring to “a few details” to be settled.
The striker’s father, Jorge Messi, however, chipped away at this version of the story on Tuesday afternoon.
“Nothing verbal, nothing signed, no agreement, and there won’t be any until the season is over,” he said on his Instagram account, castigating “people who lie about conscious and deliberate way, without providing any evidence for their assertions”.
The world of transfers is full of denials, twists and uncertainties but, in this specific case, one thing seems certain: Messi’s Parisian adventure is coming to an end, and not necessarily in apotheosis.
Paris Saint-Germain, requested by AFP, is content to recall that Messi’s contract runs until June 30, but an internal source goes further: “if the club had wanted to renew his contract, it would have been done earlier”.
Arrived in the City of Light in the summer of 2021, the former No.10 of Barça is preparing to leave it without having answered the immense hopes of the Qatari owners and the Parisian supporters, disappointed by his lack of investment and his measured return. .
The cheers and the rock star welcome gave way to criticism, even whistles from the ultras of the Parc des Princes, angry by the disappointments in the Champions League linked, according to them, to the club’s too “bling-bling” recruitment, Messi in the lead.
The Argentinian has certainly offered goals, assists and flashes, but far from the vista displayed in his heart club, FC Barcelona (2004-2021), which he left with regret after four titles in the Champions League and ten in La Liga, among others.
The hypothesis of a return of Messi in Catalonia appears incompatible with the finances of Barça.
Asked, the Blaugrana club did not want to comment on the information sending Messi to Saudi Arabia. “Why would Barca have anything to say? We don’t know anything about that,” a spokesperson replied.
Several media have mentioned in recent days the existence of a fabulous offer from the Al-Hilal club, valued at 400 million euros per year to bring in Messi and recreate the mythical rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, former opponent in the championship. Spaniard, now Al-Nassr player.
Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund
On the side of Al-Hilal, internal sources tell AFP that they have not been in direct contact with the Messi clan.
“It’s Saudi Arabia that brings him, not a particular club. The money comes from the same place: the PIF”, specifies from Riyadh the source close to the negotiations.
Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf countries, relies in part on sports competitions (Formula 1, golf, football, etc.) to diversify its economy and change its image as an ultra-conservative kingdom.
The oil monarchy scored a first big hit this winter by luring Ronaldo with an estimated 400 million euro contract until June 2025, which made the Portuguese the highest-paid sportsman in the world in 2023, according to the annual ranking from Forbes.
Messi is already under contract with the Saudi tourist office. His promotional escapade to Riyadh last week, without the permission of the club, further tarnished his record at PSG, who dismissed him for one match as a punishment.
The two years in France appear as a small task in the capital career of the pocket striker, winner in December of the World Cup, his ultimate dream, against France Kylian Mbappé.
On paper, the association between Messi, Neymar and Mbappé made PSG dream. But at the twilight of their failed union, the fishing is very thin with two eliminations in quick succession in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and only two national titles (Ligue 1 and Champions Trophy in 2022) for the time being.
He has four matches left to secure the league title and complete a meager legacy compared to what was expected of one of the best players in history.