Lionel Messi 'increasingly likely' to join Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal: report

Lionel Messi 'increasingly likely' to join Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal: report
Riyadh-based Al-Hilal has offered Messi a lucrative contract hoping to lure the Argentine superstar to Saudi Arabia once his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires at the end of the season.
3 min read
05 April, 2023
Could Messi make the move to the Saudi football league? Saudi media appear to think so [Stephen Nadler/ISI Photos/Getty Images]

Lionel Messi is "increasingly likely" to join Saudi club Al-Hilal, according to ESPN, potentially facing Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch who plays for rivals Al-Nassr. 

A source told the sports outlet that the probability of Messi, who fronts the 'Visit Saudi' tourism campaign, joining the Riyadh-based club at the end of the season is as high as "50-50".

This was backed by a report from the Saudi Gazette and Okaz dailies, which said that Al-Hilal had put forward an offer to Messi on Tuesday.

It follows talks between the Riyadh-based club and Messi’s camp last month, with a package reportedly offered worth a whopping £350 million a year. 

The Argentine superstar's signing of the deal would come as a huge boost for the Saudi Pro League which already boasts Ronaldo, who plays for Al-Hilal's cross-town rivals Al-Nassr. 

The move aims to rekindle the fabled rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, who spent the bulk of their careers at fierce rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in Spain’s La Liga. 

Last year was one of the biggest in Messi's career as he finally lifted the World Cup for Argentina in Qatar. His team lost just one match during the entire tournament - ironically to Saudi Arabia.

Messi's club career is currently at a crossroads. His contract with his current club Paris Saint-Germain - which is owned by the Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi - expires at the end of the season, and reports suggest he is unlikely to renew. 

Several other clubs are rumoured to be interested in recruiting Messi, who is considered one of the greatest players of the modern game - including his former club FC Barcelona.

The Spanish club from which Messi left in 2021 is facing serious financial difficulties, and is therefore unlikely to offer Messi a salary package comparable to that reportedly proposed by Al-Hilal.

Over on the other side of Riyadh, Cristiano Ronaldo continues to dominate headlines after scoring twice for Al-Nassr in a thumping 5-0 win against league leaders Al-Ittihad. 

Al-Hilal currently sits in third place in the Saudi Pro League, below Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr.

Live Story

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly accused of 'sportswashing', trying to cover up their abysmal human rights record with major global sporting events.

Over the past few years, Riyadh has ventured into several sporting arenas, including bankrolling the breakaway LIV Golf tournament, hosting the Spanish Super Cup football tournament, purchasing English Premier League side Newcastle United, and now signing global football superstars to the Saudi top flight.