Update (11 June, 9am): Lionel Messi has agreed to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, according to the BBC on 7 June. He chose to join Inter Miami in the United States “to live football in a different way” and enjoy more time with his family, after he was unable to rejoin boyhood club Barcelona due to financial limitations from the Catalan club.
Argentine World Cup winner Lionel Messi is reportedly being courted by Saudi Arabia club Al-Hilal, according to reports.
It was announced that the 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward had played his last game for the French club on Sunday, as his contract will expire at the end of June.
Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, is reportedly now fielding offers from various clubs including Al-Hilal, who has sent officials to Paris to broker a deal.
The Saudi club is reportedly offering a US$1 billion (S$1.45 billion) two-year contract.
Besides Al-Hilal, Messi’s boyhood club Barcelona are also interested in obtaining his signature.
However, the Catalan club is reportedly facing financial difficulties, which will hamper their plans to bring him back after he sensationally left in 2021 on a free transfer.
“There is a Saudi delegation in Paris with one goal: to return with Messi’s official approval to the Saudi offer,” according to media reports.
Another official said they were in the final stages of the deal.
Reports have even emerged stating that Messi will be announced as signed by Al-Hilal as soon as 6 June, although said reports were published on 3 June and things may have changed since.
However, Al-Hilal appears to be favourites for now — not to mention, they are offering a gigantic US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) over two years, which would make him the highest-paid footballer in the world.
The two last faced off in January during a friendly match between PSG and an all-star team of Saudi League players.
Other superstars such as French striker Karim Benzema have reportedly joined champions Al-Ittihad in recent days.
According to the New York Times, the Saudi national league is providing massive funds to clubs to lure foreign stars to the Gulf state.
Over US$1 billion will be spent to bring around 20 foreign players, but Saudi Arabia is determined to bring more attention to the country as part of its efforts to improve its image globally.
Even though Messi arrived in Paris to much fanfare in 2021, he failed to capture the Champions League with PSG — falling in the top-16 stage two years in a row.
The club, backed by Qatar, also suspended Messi after he missed training in May. Messi had been in Saudi Arabia at the time.
Despite scoring 31 goals and laying on 33 assists in 71 games, his time at PSG has been considered a disappointment.
Following his suspension, it became clear that Messi wasn’t going to sign a new contract.
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Featured image adapted from Sky Sports.
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