Executives at FC Barcelona are “hugely confident” that they can pry Argentine star Lionel Messi away from a record-breaking transfer to Saudi Arabia from Paris Saint-German (PSG) to return to his old team, according to a new report.
Messi played for FC Barcelona between 2003 and 2021, where he rose up through the club’s youth ranks to the first team. During his 21-year tenure at the Catalonian side, he won 34 trophies, including 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles and the UEFA Champions League three times. He left the club in 2021 to join Qatari-owned PSG, but he only did so because La Liga would not authorize his new contract due to FC Barcelona’s financial difficulties.
With Messi’s PSG contract expiring this summer, the footballer will be leaving the French club on a free transfer, and Barcelona and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC are the favorites to secure him. Messi had reportedly received an eye-watering offer worth €400 million ($434 million) per year from Al Hilal. Such a transfer would once again make the 35-year-old the highest-paid athlete in the world, surpassing the $213 million a year that Cristiano Ronaldo is earning at Al Nassr, another Saudi soccer team.
Although Barcelona will not be able to offer Messi the same salary as Al Hilal, 90 Minutes reported Friday that sources at the La Liga team believe they will be in the position to announce Messi’s return to the club soon. The soccer news outlet said that the player would reportedly prefer a move back to his old club instead of to Saudi Arabia, despite not being able to provide him with as high a salary.
After an Agence France-Presse report on May 9 saying that Messi’s move to Saudi Arabia was “a done deal,” his father and agent Jorge Messi was quick to distance his son from the reports. Jorge said that there was no agreement in place for his son’s future next year and there wouldn’t be until this season was finished. Messi himself already has ties to the kingdom as its tourism ambassador and was suspended by PSG for two weeks for making an unauthorized trip to the Gulf state at the beginning of May.
Al-Monitor has contacted FC Barcelona for comment.