Exclusive: Lionel Messi could end up moving to Saudi Arabia in ‘unthinkable’ scenario

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It looks like it’s going to be the transfer saga of the summer, as Lionel Messi gets back to doing what he does best and that’s playing football, for the time being at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Argentinian’s services still appear to be much sought after, though not in Paris it would seem.

Writing in his exclusive CaughtOffside Substack, senior journalist, Ben Jacobs, noted that his current contract with the Parc des Princes outfit will simply peter our.

‘Messi’s contract at PSG will simply expire, and neither party is currently taking active steps to change that,’ he wrote. 

‘Messi was forced to apologise for taking an authorised trip to Saudi Arabia instead of turning up to PSG training. He argued he thought he had two days off, and by the time he was told to report to training it was too late to change his plans. 

‘PSG maintain the players knew they would only get time off if they beat Lorient and they lost that game 3-1.

‘PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wanted to show the club doesn’t tolerate a lack of discipline and so he originally suspended Messi for two weeks. But following the apology video, the ban has been halved and Messi is now back in training.’

Though he will turn 36 just a week before the summer transfer window opens, it’s obvious he still has a lot to offer whichever team he ends up signing for.

According to WhoScored, he already has 20 goals and 19 assists in all competitions this season, not to mention a longed-for World Cup.

To that end, it’s understandable why former club, FC Barcelona, would want to bring him home to the Camp Nou.

‘Messi hasn’t decided (on his next move),’ Jacobs continued. 

His preference has always been to stay in Europe and Barcelona are working out whether they can table an acceptable offer that works for both Messi and will satisfy La Liga. 

‘This means things may drag on.’

What’s intriguing is the detail behind any potential deal should Messi finally decide to ply his trade in Saudi Arabia, and reignite his incredible rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Though the figures being spoken about are a little unpalatable, it would be hard to disagree with Messi’s decision to accept any contract, were it to be offered at the figures being quoted.

‘We are seeing a few reports suggesting Lionel Messi has agreed to join Saudi side Al-Hilal, but nothing is done yet,’ Jacobs added.

‘Messi is contracted to the Saudi Tourism Authority, and although we constantly hear about an Al-Hilal move, the offer (and funding for it) is being driven by wider government stakeholders. 

‘This was the same when Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr. The clubs themselves don’t have this kind of money at their disposal without getting major help.

‘Talks with Messi’s representatives, led by his father Jorge, have taken place over a deal worth around £320m a year ($400m). This means Messi could earn pretty much double Ronaldo’s salary.

‘Ex-Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook, who is executive president of the Saudi Pro League, is also involved in any potential deal. 

‘In theory Messi could be contracted to any club in the league, which is a unique scenario. Imagine if the Premier League helped facilitate a transfer then decided if the player would go to Liverpool or Manchester United?! It would be unthinkable!

‘But Ronaldo, for example, was originally earmarked for Al-Hilal before a transfer ban stopped it progressing.’

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