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Lionel Messi to Al-Hilal? Here’s What You Need to Know

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Amid Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr move and this week’s Lionel Messi Al-Hilal rumors, Boardroom cuts through the hype to establish what is and isn’t actually going on.

In a vacuum, soccer GOAT Lionel Messi signing to play in Saudi Arabia sounds as likely as a summer blizzard hitting Qatar.

But after Cristiano Ronaldo signed with Saudi club Al-Nassr in a deal worth approximately $200 million per year — the largest contract in sports history by a few different measures — we can’t really rule out any footy transfer rumor regarding this particular Kingdom, now, can we?

Multiple reports Thursday from outlets including France’s RMC Sport claim that not only has Messi not agreed to a contract extension with current club Paris Saint-Germain as was previously believed, but that his father, Jorge is in the Saudi capital of Riyadh talking with Al-Nassr’s rival Al-Hilal on a deal that, if rumors are to be believed, could be worth an absurd $300 million per season, or even as high as the $350 million range, a sum that would be as record-setting as it is gobsmacking.

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There are differences right now, however, between the two all-time greats’ current level of play. The 37-year-old Ronaldo and Manchester United mutually agreed to part ways in November as the World Cup commenced, and ultimately, CR7 didn’t even start every game in Qatar as Portugal fell in an upset loss to Morocco in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Messi is still seemingly at the height of his legendary powers, winning the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s top player in leading Argentina to its first World Cup title since Diego Maradona powered the Albiceleste to glory in 1986.

Unlike Ronaldo, who couldn’t find an acceptable suitor in free agency that would provide him both the Champions League action and stratospheric paycheck he desired, Messi would have no shortage of grandiose options — including a potential return to his beloved FC Barcelona, which had to let him go in the summer of 2021 due to a crippling debt crisis. And with due respect to MLS side Inter Miami, $300 million a year is hard for any human being to pass up, and Ronaldo’s shock signing with Al-Nassr makes a Messi move to Al-Hilal all the more believable, particularly given that Saudi Arabia is well known to be preparing for a 2030 World Cup hosting bid.

It was thought that Messi and Ronaldo could face off against each other one more time when PSG plays a friendly against a combined Al-Nassr/Al-Hilal team in Riyadh on Jan. 19, but perhaps the pair of icons that will be forever linked in the GOAT debate and through countless battles between Barcelona and Real Madrid could once again reunite in Saudi Arabia with fresh contracts paying out nine figures per season, sportswashing be damned.

Such a thing would have felt inconceivable just a few short months ago. But in the Beautiful Game, perhaps it’s simply destiny that the fates of these two all-time legends will forever be intertwined.

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