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$400 million per year! Saudi Arabia offers Messi the largest contract in sports history

According to The Telegraph, the Riyadh government is betting big on reuniting the World Cup champion with Cristiano Ronaldo in its league.

Messi in a soccer match.

Lionel Messi/ Cordon Press.

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Saudi Arabia is preparing to make another splash on the world soccer scene. After Cristiano Ronaldo $200 million per year deal to play in the Saudi league was sealed in December 2022, the league is now focusing its efforts on bringing in Lionel Messi, currently playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), by offering him the biggest contract in sports history.

According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, the Saudi Arabian government, which organizes the Saudi Pro League, has offered the Argentine star $400 million a year, double the salary of Cristiano Ronaldo, to sign for one of the top teams in the competition. He could join current Saudi champions Al Hilal or Al Nasr, where he would share a locker room with his long-time rival.

Messi and PSG: a bridge that is all but burned

This astronomical offer comes at a time when the relationship between Messi and Paris Saint-Germain has soured. The club, owned by the Qatari government, asked him not to travel to Saudi Arabia, considered by the authorities in Riyadh to be a rival country in political and economic matters. The 2022 World Cup winner flouted the Parisian board and flew to the Saudi capital with his father and agent, Jorge Messi, a few days ago to fulfill alleged advertising commitments. In fact, Messi is one of the ambassadors of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA).

While in Riyadh, Messi did not attend the team's training sessions. For this and for disobeying his club, PSG has decided to suspend him without pay for two weeks.

PSG has offered him one more year

Messi finishes his contract with PSG on June 30, 2023. Since Jan. 1, he has been free to negotiate with any other team. The Telegraph assures that the Argentinian player has an offer to remain at the French club for one more season although, after the tensions between the two parties have risen, it seems unlikely that he will continue in Paris.

In the two seasons he has donned the PSG uniform, Messi has averaged much lower scoring and assist totals than he did during his time at F.C. Barcelona. In Paris, the world champion has scored 31 goals in 71 official matches (0.44 goals per game). In 17 seasons in the Spanish league, he scored 672 goals in 778 official games (0.86 goals per game).

Sports to "clean up" Saudi Arabia's image

The Saudi government wants to use sports to "clean up" its image. The international community questions whether certain fundamental rights or social groups are respected in the country.

The possible arrival of Messi and the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in December are not Saudi Arabia's first major sporting moves. In 2021, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), acquired 80% of the shares of Newcastle United, one of the most storied clubs in the English Premier League for about $330 million. U.D. Almeria, a LaLiga (Spanish first division) club, is also owned by the country.

Other competitions of great international impact such as the Dakar Rally are held in Saudi Arabia. It also aspires to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games.