PARIS, France - Lionel Messi could be the next big star to join the Saudi league after receiving a lucrative offer from Al-Hilal, according to a source close to the Argentine legend. The Riyadh-based club has reportedly offered Messi a contract worth around $400 million a year, making him the highest-paid player in the world.
The offer from Al-Hilal is the only one that Messi has received so far, the source told Reuters on Thursday. The 35-year-old forward is currently playing for Paris St Germain, but his future is uncertain after he was suspended by the French club for making an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia earlier this week.
Messi, who won the World Cup with Argentina in 2022, is a Saudi ambassador for tourism and visited the kingdom with his family on Sunday. He posted several photos on social media of his visit, which included meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and touring various landmarks.
However, his trip angered PSG, who claimed that Messi had skipped a training session without permission and violated the club's ruse. French media reported that PSG had decided not to renew Messi's contract for a third season and were looking to sell him in the summer.
Messi joined PSG in August 2021 after leaving Barcelona, where he spent his entire career and became the club's all-time top scorer and most decorated player. He signed a two-year deal with PSG with an option for a third year, but he has reportedly been unhappy with the club's lack of ambition and project.
A second source close to Messi told Reuters that he had informed PSG of his intention to leave at the end of the season and that he felt the club lacked a clear vision. The source also said that PSG had no training scheduled on Monday and that they only decided to hold one after Messi was already in Saudi Arabia.
A source close to PSG denied this, saying that Messi had travelled without the club's consent and that there was a training session planned on Monday. The source did not comment on whether Messi had told PSG that he wanted to leave.
If Messi accepts Al-Hilal's offer, he would join his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi League. Ronaldo signed for Al-Nassr in December 2021 in a deal reported to be worth around $200 million per year. The Portuguese star has scored 12 goals for Al-Nassr and is currently competing with Al-Hilal for the league title.
Al-Hilal is one of the most successful and popular clubs in Saudi Arabia and Asia. They have won 16 league titles, nine King Cup titles, 13 Crown Prince Cup titles, seven Saudi Federation Cup titles, three Super Cup titles and one Saudi Founder’s Cup title. They have also won eight Asian trophies, including four AFC Champions League titles, two Asian Cup Winners’ Cup titles and two Asian Super Cup titles. They are the only club in Asia to have won the AFC Champions League four times.
Al-Hilal was founded in 1957 as Olympic Club and changed its name to Al-Hilal (meaning “the crescent”) in 1958 by King Saud. They play their home games at the King Fahd International Stadium, which has a capacity of 68,752. Their main rivals are Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad, with whom they contest the Riyadh derby and the Saudi Clasico respectively
Messi has also been linked with a return to Barcelona or a move to Inter Miami in the United States' Major League Soccer. However, Al-Hilal's offer could tempt him to make a historic switch to Saudi Arabia and add another chapter to his illustrious career.