After many days of high-level negotiations with Saudi agents in Paris, sources close to the talks told CBS Sports that Lionel Messi will decide on his new club before the end of the week. When his Paris Saint-Germain contract expires at the end of the month, Messi may relocate to Saudi Arabia.
Over the past few months, both clubs and the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) have been in talks with Messi’s representatives, and CBS Sports has been told that senior Saudi government officials have been involved.
Saudi sources have long been sure that they will acquire their man ahead of Inter Miami and Barcelona, and he will arrive in the country later this week. Barcelona’s attempts to re-sign Messi, whose father and agent Jorge Messi visited club president Joan Laporta’s home on Monday, are Al Hilal’s biggest obstacle.
Messi may make €1 billion over two years in the Saudi Pro League
“Of course, he [Messi] would love to return to Barcelona,” Jorge Messi told reporters. “Me too. Will see.” However, finances make it unlikely that Barcelona can bring Messi back to La Liga.
Saudi Arabia is offering enormous contracts to European veterans, so money is not a problem. PIF acquired Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr, and Al Hilal on Monday.
The state’s high-level involvement in the Pro League’s remaking predates PIF’s takeover of the quartet; CBS Sports reported last month that Messi’s representatives had met with the sovereign wealth fund and the clubs hoping to sign him.
European veterans receive more offers. CBS Sports can report that Al Fath wants Iago Aspas and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, undesired at Chelsea, has been offered to Al Ahli and Al Shabab. A PIF delegation traveled to London to sign N’Golo Kante and Ilkay Gundogan to two-year, €200 million contracts. Chelsea and Manchester City’s midfielders’ contracts expire this month.
PIF’s purchase of Newcastle United is part of the Saudi state’s effort to diversify its economy away from oil and gas and project soft power worldwide. Saudi Arabia will likely bid for the 2030 World Cup.