Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi will play in Saudi Arabia next season under a “huge” deal, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday.
“Messi is a done deal. He will play in Saudi Arabia next season,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity and without naming the club.
“The contract is exceptional. It’s huge. We are just finalising some small details.”
Asked about the comments, Messi’s current club Paris Saint-Germain simply noted that the 35-year-old remains under contract until June 30.
But a separate PSG source said: “If the club had wanted to renew his contract, it would have been done earlier.”
The World Cup winner was suspended by Qatari-owned PSG last week for an unauthorised trip to Saudi, where he is a tourism ambassador.
He was seen with his family in what was reported to be a holiday trip in Riyadh.
The Argentinian has since apologised to the club and his teammates in a video posted on Instagram to his 458 million followers.
Messi’s expected arrival in the oil-rich kingdom follows in the footsteps of his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Saudi Pro League club Al Nassr in a massive deal in January.
Ronaldo’s agreement to June 2025 is said to total more than €400 million (S$582.4 million), making him the world’s highest paid athlete according to Forbes.
The news came a day after Messi was named the Laureus Sportsman of the Year during the awards ceremony in Paris, while sprint champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce bagged the top women’s honour.
Messi also received an award on behalf of the Argentina men’s football team, who were named World Team of the Year after their triumph at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner had won the award once before, sharing it with British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in 2020.
He also became the first athlete to scoop both the World Sportsman of the Year Award and the World Team of the Year Award in the same year.
Jamaican Fraser-Pryce enjoyed an outstanding 2022, which included winning the 100m gold at the World Athletics Championships.
Tennis player Carlos Alcaraz, who won the 2022 US Open and rose to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, was named the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year.
Christian Eriksen, who recovered from the cardiac arrest he suffered at the European Championship in 2021 to return to Premier League football with Brentford and then Manchester United before competing at the World Cup with Denmark, received the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.