Is Lionel Messi's Al Hilal deal done and dusted? Buzz grows over Saudi minister's remark

Messi's possible move to Saudi Arabia could involve what pundits have termed a record-breaking deal, and renew his club rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr last year

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AFP File Photo
AFP File Photo

By Web Desk

Published: Thu 1 Jun 2023, 5:12 PM

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi's next destination could be revealed soon as the buzz over a possible move to Saudi Arabia grows louder with each passing day.

The World Cup winner is leaving Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) when his contract expires this summer — and rumours have swirled over whether he will have a fairytale reunion with La Liga giant Barcelona, or if he will join the Saudi Pro League and renew his club rivalry with Portugal great Cristiano Ronaldo, or whether he will go to America's Major League Soccer.

A comment by a Saudi minister has fanned new excitement, with some predicting that the 35-year-old footballer was indeed headed for the Middle East country.

“Benzema and Messi? The clubs will officially announce this in due course,” Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Minister of Sport, has been quoted by Sport as saying, according to Sports Brief.

Alongside Messi, French star footballer Karim Benzema, too, has been linked to the Saudi Pro League over the past weeks. There are rumours that their new clubs would end the suspense only after the stars play their final matches with their clubs this season.

Messi's move to Saudi Arabia could involve what pundits have termed a record-breaking deal. According to some reports, Messi has agreed a deal with Al Hilal club worth over a billion pounds.

Not only that, it would also pit him against former Real Madrid attacker Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr last year. The prospect of the two (hailed as all-time greats by their fans) squaring off again in the same league after La Liga has fans excited.

Barcelona off table?

A section of sports journalists meanwhile has declared that Messi's fairytale return to Barcelona, a club he had been associated with for over two decades, was off the table.

Messi would have liked nothing more than to return to the place that was his home since he left Argentina as a 12-year-old in pursuit of his footballing dream, a BBC article said, referring to Barcelona.

"But his camp has told Barcelona the decision on his future is imminent and they cannot wait any longer for a proposal from them that has not arrived," it said.

Spotlight on Benzema

Another big name at the centre of attention this transfer season is that of Benzema. He is said to be weighing all options after being offered a massive €400-million deal to join Saudi league champions Al Ittihad on a two-year deal, Sports Brief reported.

"The 35-year-old forward has spent 14 years at Real Madrid, but could leave the 14-time Champions League winners when his current deal expires at the end of the season," according to Sports Brief.

Suspense continues

In 2021, Messi joined PSG from Spain amid much fanfare. While his first season there was affected by injuries, he helped the French team win Ligue 1 this year. But with PSG failing to attain Champions League glory despite having a star-studded line-up, Messi has repeatedly been taunted by PSG fans. He was suspended by the club for two weeks after an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia; his suspension was later lifted.

"In Saudi Arabia there are government officials already working on his arrival. They have been told Messi has accepted a very lucrative offer from Al-Hilal and are preparing for the move. This could simply be his camp preparing for his decision - or it is the most attractive proposition for the player," according to the BBC report cited above.

"American side Inter Miami are another option, although a reported loan deal between them and Barcelona - where he would end up temporarily at the Catalan club - is not on the cards," the report added.

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