In the biggest week of the European football season, amid title races in different countries, where bitter relegation battles were fought, hours before the Champions League semi-final match, the news came to overshadow everything.
Lionel MessiAccording to a report by Agence France-Presse, heading to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia For what he expects to be the last years of his career.
World Cup winner Argentina The superstar had long been expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain, as he had become increasingly disaffected, at the end of the current season.
However, while rumors have constantly swirled of interest from the Middle East following Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to victory after the World Cup, it has also been felt that other options may be tempted to make the decision.
Barcelona, the club where he has long been ruling the roost, are said to be crafting a package to bring Messi back, despite his dire financial difficulties. Inter Miami, owned by David Beckham, thought they were starring.
In the end, it seems, money spoke the loudest. Reports suggest that Messi’s salary is an incredible $657 million (likely spread over two years), which would overtake Ronaldo as the highest paid athlete on the planet – he was No. 2 last year.
Although the AFP report did not mention a specific team as its destination, Crescent moonthe hated rival of Al-Nassr and the personal club of the King of Saudi Arabia, appears to be the place where he can resume a personal rivalry with Ronaldo that has lasted for more than 15 years.
Messi flew to the Saudi capital Riyadh last week as part of a $30 million sponsorship deal with that country’s tourism agency. Did not go well with Paris Saint-Germain Chiefs, who then suspended him for two weeks, though that ban was rescinded after he later apologized.
However, it has become increasingly clear that Messi and his camp have forged deep ties to the Saudi hierarchy, frequently appearing in commercials and even hosting a TV travel documentary about the country.
Messi has made a fortune over his career, but this goes to show that even someone with his personal wealth level can turn heads with a salary package that is vastly more than what can or will be offered elsewhere.
The impending move is not without controversy. Saudi Arabia has been accused of sports laundering, financing high-profile athletes primarily to try to improve the international image that was tarnished in 2018 by the “gross murder” – according to the US State Department – of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is the main backer of the breakaway LIV Golf Tour, the Middle Eastern country has hosted Formula 1 racing, boxing and WWE majors, and is starting to make serious waves about its bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Now he’s about to feature two of the most famous soccer players on the planet in the Saudi Professional League, which he’s trying to establish himself as an emerging option that’s set to eventually rival some of the major competitions in the sport.
This is not what most people would paint as Messi’s dream finale. This was not the way football fans liked things to happen. For most of them, it goes back to the heart Barcelona was the way to go. If it weren’t for the mess Barcelona got into, most notably with an investigation into whether they bribed a preferential treatment refereeing official, that could be the reason.
But there is no point in complaining about the new realities of football, because in fact they are not new.
Oil money from the Middle East and Russia Take control of the game. Favorite in the English Premier League Manchester city It has become the dominant force in English football since its purchase by an investment federation in Abu Dhabi.
Chelsea It was saved from bankruptcy and won the Champions League less than a decade later, after it was bought out by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oil tycoon with close ties to Vladimir Putin.
No romantic ending then? Truth be told, the dream upswing of Messi’s career has already happened. Whatever happens from this point on, nothing can match that great December night at Lusail Stadium in Qatar, when Argentina pulled off a furious encounter. France Fighting to lift the World Cup, penalty shootout prevails.
Lionel Messi brings glory to Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Is Lionel Messi the best soccer player in the world? Argentina’s director of football, Lionel Scaloni, wouldn’t be the only one to say so after Messi managed to bring the 2022 FIFA World Cup back to Argentina. Take a look at Messi’s trip to Qatar, and why his relationships with past greats and his current team lead him to success.
It was the culmination of an international career that saw him win every single and club honor imaginable, but it wasn’t the most glamorous award ever.
Now, the man who is arguably the most popular athlete on the planet steps out to a new challenge. A controversial figure by nature, it is highlighted by a staggering financial figure and, more than anything else, shows that these are changing times in the world of football.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX And Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
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