Lionel Messi is a name that transcends football. The Argentine is a household name all around the world after a fairytale career that peaked with last year’s World Cup triumph. So when someone like Messi transfers between clubs, it’s never likely to be a quiet, straightforward switch.
It looks like the 35-year-old will be on the move again this summer and his likely destination is causing plenty of controversy. Even though Messi has the option of an extra year at his current club Paris Saint-Germain [PSG], he is set to leave after just two seasons with the French champions.
The club where he made his name, Barcelona, are desperate to re-sign the player they let go in 2021, but they are crippled by financial problems and simply cannot afford him. There has been interest from Inter Miami, a club in the North American Major League Soccer [MLS] but the most likely destination is cash-rich Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh-based Al-Hilal team.
When Messi lifted the glistening World Cup trophy into the night sky of Qatar back in December, after Argentina beat France on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw, it was the completion of a life’s work. Messi had now won everything his heart desired with the World Cup being the final piece of the puzzle.
Despite the fact he only has a few years left in his playing career, that triumph only served to raise the amount of money clubs must pay to sign him. It’s why this week saw reports out of France that Al-Hilal is offering him a contract worth an eye-watering £ 522 million to come and play in Saudi Arabia.
A source told the AFP news agency it was a ‘done deal‘ that Messi would sign a two-year contract with the option of a third. If he sees that out, he will be 38. Given he currently earns £103.4m-per-season at PSG, that represents a mind-blowing final payday in his career.
Messi’s father, Jorge, quickly shut down the AFP report and insisted no decision has yet been made about his son’s next move. But it’s obvious the way the wind is blowing. The money on the table, Messi’s existing ties to Saudi Arabia, and the lack of clubs elsewhere that could afford him mean all roads lead to Riyadh.