Lionel Messi's father denies star has deal with Saudi Arabia to leave Paris Saint-Germain
Jorge Messi, Lionel Messi's father and agent, denied reports that his son has agreed to sign a deal to play in Saudi Arabia next season.
AFP reported earlier Tuesday that Messi was headed to Saudi Arabia, where he already works as a tourism ambassador, with one source describing the situation as a "done deal." The report didn't state which team Messi would play for, but the Saudi Pro League's most successful team Al-Hilal has been widely rumored as a landing spot.
Messi is under contract with his current club, Paris Saint-Germain, through June 30.
Jorge did his best to pour cold water on the reports there was a deal, writing on his Instagram story, "There is absolutely nothing agreed with any club for next year" and any decision will come after his son finishes the season with PSG.
He also took the opportunity to castigate certain parts of the media for accepting rumors as fact.
There were previous reports that the Saudi government offered Messi more than $400 million per year to play for one of its teams, with Al-Hilal itself not involved in the negotiations. Any such deal would reunite Messi with his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who currently stars for Al-Nassr on a record contract, in the Saudi Pro League.
Where will Lionel Messi play next season?
As things currently stand, Messi appears to have three potential destinations for next season. PSG is not one of them, as both club and player appear comfortable with that bridge being burned.
First and foremost is, obviously, Saudi Arabia. Whether or not Messi actually has a deal there, it's clear the oil state is coming into negotiations with enormous financial resources. Signing Messi would be the latest splurge in the country's attempt to have sports overshadow its atrocious human rights record on the world stage, an effort that has already seen it land Ronaldo, the LIV Golf tour, a Formula 1 Grand Prix and several boxing matches and horse races.
Messi has spent the last two years playing for another club backed by oil money, as PSG is owned by the Qatar sovereign wealth fund.
Another contender could be the United States' MLS, which has precedent landing an internationally renowned soccer star with David Beckham. In that case, the league went all-out with a deal that gave Beckham his own team, Inter Miami. Bringing in Messi would require a similar effort.
And then there's Messi's old flame, F.C. Barcelona, which has reportedly been aggressive pursuing a reunion with its greatest player ever. With UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, it cannot hope to match the Saudi's reported offer, but there's always the possibility that something matters more than money to Messi here.