PSG and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi looks close to joining Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal next season. The club is offering Messi a staggering $650 million to play in Saudi Arabia. This is reportedly a two-year deal, meaning Messi will make $325 million per year to play in Saudi Arabia. It is far more than the deal Cristiano Ronaldo received from Al-Nassr to play in Saudi Arabia earlier this season.

This report comes out of France from AFP France. The publication cited an anonymous source, who quoted Messi’s move to Saudi Arabia as ‘a done deal,’ and he will be in the Middle East. This allows for one more, likely final, chapter in the storied rivalry between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. That dates back to their meetings in the Champions League, LaLiga, Copa del Rey and internationally.

Messi’s interaction with Saudi Arabia is already clear. Most recently, PSG suspended Messi for two weeks after the Argentine made a trip to the country. That was part of his $30 million per year contract with Visit Saudi, the country’s tourism board. The trip, as well as relatively lackluster play and a failure to deliver the Champions League, created a rift between Messi and the club and its fans.

He will, however, play through the end of his contract with PSG that expires at the end of this season. The club remains the leader of the Ligue Un title race with four games left and a six-point lead. Messi is second on the team in goals at 20 this campaign in 37 games. Only Kylian Mbappé has more. Also, he leads the team in assists at 19 in all competitions.

Al-Hilal is the landing spot for Messi

That talent is one thing Al-Hilal is hunting. The club is in fourth in the current Saudi Pro League season after winning five of the last six domestic titles. However, the club wants to avenge its runner-up finish in the most recent AFC Champions League. After winning the competition for a record fourth time in 2021, the club lost by one lone own goal in the 2022 Final to Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds.

More than his on-field talent, Al-Hilal will grow massively in popularity with the arrival of Messi. Within three days of Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, Al-Nassr’s Instagram follower count grew more than ten times over. Messi, who carries an even bigger Instagram following than his Portuguese counterpart, could deliver the same output for Al-Hilal.

Conflicting reports

The move to Saudi Arabia is looking increasingly more likely for Messi. However, there are different reports about where Messi may end up. With Barcelona and Major League Soccer among the entities vying for his talents this summer, nothing is quite set in stone.

For example, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano responded to AFP France’s claims by stating Messi’s camp will not make a decision until after the conclusion of this season.

Al-Hilal’s interest in the star is no secret, and the other clubs cannot match the Saudi Arabian’s wealth and offerings for Messi.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sebastien Frej