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SAUDI PRO LEAGUE

Messi receives offer to team up with Ighalo at Saudi club Al-Hilal

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Lionel Messi visits Saudi Arabia - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - May 1, 2023 Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi with his wife Antonela Roccuzzo and their sons during a visit to Saudi Arabia Saudi Ministry of Tourism/Handout via REUTERS

Lionel Messi has received a formal offer to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal next season, a source close to Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain told Reuters on Thursday. Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo is a key member of the Al Hilal.

The offer from the Saudi club is the only one Messi has received so far, the source added. Argentine media have reported that the offer is worth around $400 million a year.

Al-Hilal did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal business hours.

The 35-year-old Messi has also been linked in the media with a move back to boyhood club Barcelona, with the United States’ Major League Soccer club Inter Miami also being touted as a possible destination.

He was suspended by his current club Paris St Germain at the start of the week after making an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia, French sports daily L’Equipe reported on Tuesday, adding that PSG had decided against exercising an option to renew his contract for a third season.

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Messi is a Saudi ambassador for tourism and his long-time rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, signed for Saudi club Al-Nassr in December in a deal reported to be worth around $220 million per year.

A second source close to Messi told Reuters the suspension was imposed after the forward told PSG he would not stay in Paris following this season and felt the club lacked a project.

The source added that PSG had no training scheduled on Monday and the decision to hold a session was taken only after Messi was already in Saudi Arabia.

A source close to PSG denied this, telling Reuters Messi travelled without permission from the French club and despite there being a training session scheduled on Monday.

The source did not comment on whether Messi had already told PSG he intended to leave at the end of the season.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

SAUDI PRO LEAGUE

Ronaldo breaks Saudi League’s single-season scoring record

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Saudi Pro League - Al Nassr v Al Ittihad - Al-Awwal Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - May 27, 2024 Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Stringer

Al Nasr’s Cristiano Ronaldo capped his first full Saudi Pro League season in style as he broke the record for the most goals scored in one campaign on Monday.

The Portuguese 39-year-old scored a brace in his side’s 4-2 win over Al Ittihad on the final matchday to bring his league tally this season to 35 goals.

The previous record was held by former Al Nasr forward and Moroccan international Abderrazak Hamdallah, who scored 34 goals in 2018-19.

Ronaldo, who played for Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, joined Al Nasr in January 2023.

-Reuters

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SAUDI PRO LEAGUE

Ighalo’s former club, Al-Hilal secure Saudi League title

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Saudi Pro League - Al Hilal v Al Hazem - Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - May 11, 2024 Al Hilal fans display banners in the stands as the celebrate after winning the Saudi Pro League REUTERS/Stringer

Undefeated Al-Hilal won a record-extending 19th Saudi Pro League title on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over Al-Hazem to reclaim the trophy from Al-Ittihad who won it last season.

Jorge Jesus’ side hold a 12-point advantage over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr in second with three matches remaining.

Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Al-Hilal the lead from the penalty spot after 15 minutes but Faiz Selemani netted the equaliser for Al-Hazem in the 34th minute.

However, Jesus’s side took the lead again with an own goal from Ahmed Al-Juwaid in the 39th minute.

Mitrovic scored again in first-half stoppage time and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored three minutes later to make it 4-1.

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Al-Hilal are chasing the treble having clinched the Saudi Super Cup title in April, and having reached the Saudi King’s Cup final where they will play Al-Nassr.

-Reuters

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SAUDI PRO LEAGUE

Morocco’s Hamdallah whipped by fan  after Saudi Super Cup final

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A fan at the Saudi Super Cup final lashed an Al-Ittihad player with a whip during a confrontation moments after the match Thursday night.

The incident occurred following Al-Ittihad’s 4-1 loss to Al-Hilal in the final played at Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.

A video circulating on social media shows striker Abderrazak Hamdallah throwing water from a bottle at the fan, who responds by pulling out a long whip and lashing at the Morocco international twice — appearing to hit the player’s back the second time.

The 33-year-old Hamdallah, who had missed a penalty but later scored his team’s only goal during the game, did not appear to be injured.

As Hamdallah’s teammates stepped in, the fan was guided away by another spectator and a security official. In the video, the fan did not appear to be detained.

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A young fan in a wheelchair was nearly caught in the middle of the altercation. Former Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema plays for Al-Ittihad but was not close to the incident. Injured Al-Hilal star Neymar didn’t play in the game but helped his team lift the trophy during the celebrations.

In 2023, the Super Cup was expanded from a single game between the league champions and King’s Cup winners to include the runners-up from both competitions. It was also moved to Abu Dhabi.

Al-Ittihad did not respond to a request for comment.

Hamdallah played on the Morroco team that reached the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He came on as a substitute in three group-stage games.

He is in his sixth season playing in Saudi Arabia.

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-AP

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