Lionel Messi and several of his former teammates appear to be on their way to Saudi Arabia.
Messi had reportedly initially requested a staggering $662 million per season, but the two sides reportedly settled on $386.5 million, which would still easily make him the highest-paid athlete in the world — ahead of rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Saudi side Al-Nassr for a reported $220 million per year.
According to El Chiringuito, Messi’s former Barcelona teammates — Jordi Alba and current captain Sergio Busquets — are also planning to join Al-Hilal.
Messi and Busquets become free agents on June 30, while Alba will have to rescind his current deal, which ends in mid-2024.
The mass exodus from Europe to the Middle East is far from a sure thing, though, with both Barça and Messi’s current club Paris Saint-Germain doing everything they can to retain their talent.
For Messi’s part, he’s reportedly just focusing on winning Ligue 1 for PSG before reevaluating his options at the end of the season, according to soccer insider Fabrizio Romano, who believes Al-Hilal’s offer to be in excess of $440 million per season — more in line with last week’s reported offer of about $400 million per year.
Last week, Messi finished second in Forbes’ list of 2023 highest-paid athletes at $130 million; Ronaldo finished first with $136 million.