Sport

Saudi Arabian clubs ‘still hopeful of Lionel Messi deal’

Clubs in Saudi Arabia are reportedly still hopeful of convincing Paris Saint-Germain attacker Lionel Messi to move to the country in the near future.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is yet to agree to a contract extension with PSG beyond the summer, although the French champions can trigger a 12-month extension until the end of next season.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi has expressed his desire to tie Messi down to new terms, with the Argentina international blossoming under Christophe Galtier this term following a difficult opening campaign in Paris.

Talks between Messi and PSG over a new deal have intensified since the World Cup, but both Barcelona and Inter Miami are understood to be keeping a close eye on developments.

In January, it had been alleged that Messi had a change of heart on a verbal agreement with PSG over a new deal, and the 35-year-old would be prepared to seek pastures new in the summer.

Such reports are now thought to be wide of the mark, but Messi continues to run down the final few months of his Parc des Princes contract as talks rumble on in the background.

The likes of Al-Hilal and Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Al-Nassr have both been linked with moves for Messi, who was part of a PSG team that defeated a Riyadh All-Star XI 5-4 in a Saudi Arabia friendly last month.

According to Sky Sports News, clubs in Saudi Arabia are not giving up hope of convincing Messi to join Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League, in spite of his ongoing contract talks with PSG.

Both Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr will possess the financial firepower to sign Messi, and the former are reportedly willing to make the former Barcelona man the highest-paid player on the planet.

Messi could supposedly earn over £200m per year in Saudi Arabia, although the outlet adds that he did indeed reach an agreement in principle over a new PSG deal in the winter, and Galtier’s men are confident of retaining his services.

Neither party has come to an agreement over Messi’s wage or add-ons yet, but PSG remain relaxed about the situation, and Saudi Arabian clubs would happily put their plans to sign Messi on ice before he calls time on his career in Europe.

The veteran attacker – who won the Golden Ball as the best player during Argentina’s triumphant World Cup 2022 campaign – has scored 24 goals and set up 29 more in 56 matches for PSG across all tournaments.

Messi set up 15 goals as PSG regained the Ligue 1 title in the 2021-22 season – only Kylian Mbappe (17) had more – and he has recorded an impressive 13 goals and 14 assists from 22 matches in all tournaments this term.

Messi will be expected to start when Galtier’s side meet Montpellier HSC at the Stade de la Mosson on Wednesday evening, where the champions could suffer a third successive Ligue 1 away defeat following losses on Lens’ and Rennes’ turf already in 2023.

Les Parisiens currently sit three points clear of closest challengers Lens at the top of the Ligue 1 table, despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Reims in their most recent encounter.

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