Lionel Messi could be looking at easily the biggest contract in football history to move to Saudi Arabia, which would once and for all answer the sports’ GOAT debate.
Just last year, Cristiano Ronaldo signed a deal believed to be worth more than 200 million euros (A$314m) per season until June 2025 to join Saudi Arabian club side Al-Nassar.
It was a deal that made him the highest paid player in history.
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The deal pushed Ronaldo to the top of the Forbes Rich List on a reported $US136m ($A203m), ahead of Messi at $US130m ($A195m).
French captain Kylian Mbappe was third on $US120m ($A180m), with LeBron James on $US119.5m ($A179m) the first non-footballer on the list in fourth.
But this could rapidly change with The Telegraph reporting cashed up Saudi Arabian interests could offer Messi an earth-shattering $A600m a season deal.
“Talks with Messi’s representatives, led by his father Jorge, are underway for when the player becomes a free agent at the end of June upon the expiration of his Paris Saint-Germain contract,” The Telegraph report said.
“There are discussions that the whole package could be worth $US400 million annually (£320m) that would exceed even the £165m that Cristiano Ronaldo is being paid annually to play in Saudi until the summer of 2025.
“The conventional process for signing the world’s top talent, as with Ronaldo in December, has been for the deal to have State involvement before a final destination club is decided.
“Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr, currently second in the league behind leaders Al-Ittihad. Al-Nassr’s traditional rivals are Al-Hilal and placing Messi with that club, historically the nation’s most successful, would recreate the rivalry the pair had for nine years with Real Madrid and Barcelona.”
It’s believed Messi is unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain after he was suspended by the club after travelling to Saudi Arabia without permission.
A source with knowledge of the disciplinary procedure told AFP that Argentina’s 35-year-old World-Cup winning captain, who is out of contract at the end of the season, would be sidelined for “several days”, while various media in France reported that he would be suspended for two weeks.
“He cannot train, cannot play, and will not be paid while disciplinary measures are in place,” the source added.
Another source, also speaking on condition they were not identified, indicated that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would “probably” be sidelined for a fortnight, noting that “nobody is more important than the club”.
Messi played the whole game in PSG’s 3-1 home defeat by Lorient in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
He then travelled to Saudi Arabia to fulfil commercial commitments in his role as a tourism ambassador for the Gulf state.
The disciplinary measures make the prospect of Messi staying in the French capital after his two-year deal expires at the end of this season even more remote.
Having at one point looked set to extend his stay for another year, a source close to the club told AFP last month that he was now “much more likely” to depart.
Despite having scored 31 goals in 71 matches, Messi was jeered by a section of the PSG support, who see him as a symbol of all the club have done wrong in focusing on superstar signings while failing to build a genuinely competitive team.
Messi and Ronaldo were widely believed to have been playing for football’s “Greatest of all-time” tag in last years’ World Cup, with the Argentinian superstar coming away with his first title.
To go with his impressive resume of seven Ballon D’ors, four Champions League trophies, 10 Spanish league titles, Olympic gold and even his breakthrough 2021 Copa America, the World Cup triumph even saw FIFA tweet that the “GOAT debate was settled”.
It’ll be even harder to argue if he landed the most mind-boggling contract in sporting history.