Sydney (AFP) – Footballing minnows Adelaide United issued a long-shot bid to entice superstar Lionel Messi to join its ranks Wednesday, touting the remote South Australian city as a coronavirus safehaven for playing and raising his family.

Writing a “Dear Lionel” letter after news Messi wanted to quit his long association with Barcelona, Adelaide United Director Ian Smith cited his state’s “brilliant” schools, tourist attractions and world-class wines as reasons the Argentine should head Down Under.

He also noted South Australia’s success in containing the coronavirus pandemic which is still ravaging much of Europe, saying the state would be “safe for your young family”.

“While Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and others may be chasing your signature, wouldn’t you really like to go somewhere different?” wrote Smith in the letter posted on the club’s Facebook page.

“Indeed, as a consumer of Penfolds Grange, one of the world’s finest wines, we will find you a house in the suburb of Magill — It’s just a free-kick away from Penfolds’ award-winning Magill Estate restaurant, where you will have a regular table at your disposal,” he said.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner shocked the football world by informing Barcelona Tuesday that he wanted to leave the team where he has played his entire professional career, was the record scorer and won four Champions League titles.

The move is is expected to spark a legal battle over a buy-out clause worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Smith admitted Adelaide United, which finished in seventh place in Australia’s 11-team A League during a coronavirus-hit season, would not be able to pay Messi the kind of massive salary he is used to.

“We cannot offer you much in the form of financial compensation,” Smith said, explaining that the pandemic had badly damaged his team’s finances.

“But, hey, let’s not let that get in the way of something that promises to be very special; once you are here, you will be so happy and money will seem merely incidental,” he said.