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Messi to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal this summer: reports

Argentina’s star is the second highest-paid athlete in the world.

Lionel Messi will be leaving Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) after allegedly accepting a proposal to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal in the summer, Spanish outlet El Chiringuito TV reported on Monday.

According to the report, which was quickly picked up by mainstream media, Messi will play in Saudi Arabia next season. 

A source familiar with talks over the reported transfer told ESPN last month that the GOAT has been considering the move to the Saudi club as his two-year PSG contract expires at the end of June.

Messi joined PSG in 2021 after leaving Barcelona in what was widely seen as a shocking and unexpected exit.

In March, Barcelona vice-president, Rafael Yuste maintained that the Spanish club was in contact with Messi about a possible return to the Nou Camp.

However, the latest reports on a rumoured move to the Saudi kingdom suggests otherwise.

Speculations re-emerged last week after the Argentine World Cup champion was suspended by the French club for two weeks for travelling to Saudi Arabia without permission.

On Friday, Messi released a video on his Instagram account, in which he apologised for the incident.

Messi is a Saudi tourism ambassador, and his trip to Saudi Arabia followed the French club’s home defeat by Lorient on Sunday, in which Messi played the full 90 minutes.

Highest paid athletes

Last year, rival Cristiano Ronaldo made a historic move to Saudi’s Al Nassr, shocking much of the football world.

CR7 and Messi are among the world’s top 10 highest-paid athletes, per a recent 2023 report by Forbes. The publication placed Ronaldo as the highest-paid athlete for the first time since 2017 and for the third time overall.

The record holder’s total pay hit $136 million last year, of which $46 million came from his on-field salaries while the remaining $90 million was sourced back to off-field payments such as partnerships and other appearances.

Ronaldo’s move to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr has almost doubled the player’s salary to around $75 million, per the Forbes report. 

Meanwhile, Messi ranked as the second highest-paid athlete, earning $130 million over the past 12 months. Out of the total, $65 million was sourced back to on-field earnings while the remaining $65 million came from off-field.

Some of the contributing factors to his rising salary included his latest deal with Socios, a block-chain-based fan platform, which injects an estimate of $20 million annually into his bank account.

The World Cup winner has scored 31 goals and contributed 34 assists in 71 games in all competitions for PSG, and won the Ligue 1 title last season.

However, a move to Saudi’s Al-Hilal could see Messi secure a €600 million deal.