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Report: Messi not signing with Saudis, but kingdom wants him

The Argentine soccer star recently visited Saudi Arabia to play in an exhibition against Cristiano Ronaldo’s new Saudi club, Al Nassr. Messi also met an influential Muslim cleric during the trip.
Messi

Lionel Messi has no plans at present to join the Saudi Pro League, the Spanish news outlet Marca reported Friday. 

Marca interviewed Ibrahim Alkassim, who heads the Saudi Football Federation. He said they do not have any information indicating the Argentine soccer star is coming to the kingdom. However, Alkassim said that his organization would love for Messi to play in the country. 

“I do not hide that, as Saudi Federation, we would like to have him one day in the domestic league,” he told Marca. 

Why it matters: Messi has been linked to the Saudi soccer teams Al Ittihad and Al Hilal, both who are reportedly willing to offer him hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Messi’s rival, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, recently signed with the Saudi club Al Nassr. Ronaldo is by far the biggest name to ever sign with the Saudi Pro League. Adding Messi would add to the league’s prestige even further. 

Messi and the rest of his Paris Saint-Germain squad defeated Ronaldo and the so-called Riyadh All-Star XI in the Saudi capital Thursday. 

Messi met famous Saudi cleric Adil al-Kalbani while in Saudi Arabia. Kalbani also met Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi, who additionally plays for the Moroccan national team. 

 

 

Saudi Arabia is seeking to become a major player in several world sports. The Saudi Public Investment Fund’s LIV Golf completed its first season last year. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also launched a new investment fund this week to focus in part on developing sports infrastructure. 

Know more: There has been a lot of soccer buzz in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months. Qatar hosted the World Cup last year — the first country in the region to do so. Morocco made history in Doha by becoming the first African team to advance to the semifinal. Messi and Argentina ultimately defeated France in the tournament. 

The Saudi team notably beat Messi and Argentina in the first round of the World Cup. 

Iraq also won the Gulf Cup tournament in Basra Thursday. 

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