Lionel Messi’s father has denied reports the World Cup winner has agreed to sign for any club next season, after it was claimed on Tuesday that a money-spinning move to Saudi Arabia was “a done deal”.
News agency AFP reported that Messi, whose contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires on June 30, had accepted an “exceptional” offer bankrolled by the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.
Al Hilal, the current Saudi champions and record four-time winners of the Asian Champions League, have been cited as the likely destination.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a source said: “Messi is a done deal. He will play in Saudi Arabia next season. The contract is exceptional. It's huge. We are just finalising some small details.”
However, later on Tuesday, Messi’s father released a statement on his Instagram account denying the report. The Argentina captain, 35, has been linked with a number of clubs once his PSG contract concludes, including former employers Barcelona and Inter Miami in the US.
“There’s absolutely nothing with no club for next year,” Messi Snr wrote. “The decision will not be taken before Lionel finishes the league with PSG. Once the season is finished, that will be the time to analyse and see what there is, and then take a decision.”
Of the continued speculation regarding his son’s future, he added: “There are always rumours and lots of people use Lionel’s name to gain notoriety, but there is only one truth, and we can assure people that there is nothing with nobody. Not verbal, signed, agreed, and there won’t be until the season finishes.
“It seems like a lack of respect to me … that there are those who consciously and deliberately deceive people, without providing any proof of their affirmations, and wanting to turn into news any rumour that is badly intentioned or directed by somebody in favour of their interests.
“They should explain why they don’t check their information … they wouldn’t want a truth to ruin their ‘news’.”
Messi, who in December led Argentina to World Cup glory, was last week suspended by PSG for making a trip to Saudi Arabia without the club’s permission. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is a tourism ambassador for the kingdom. Messi, though, has since apologised and subsequently returned to training on Monday.
On Tuesday, Messi was in Paris after winning the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award, as well collecting the prize for Team of the Year on behalf of the Argentina World Cup-winning squad.
His long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al Nassr, having signed for the Riyadh side in late December. The two-and-a-half-year deal is said to be worth more than $200 million a year.
On the reported Messi agreement, the AFP quoted their source as saying: “The negotiations didn't take as much time as the ones with Ronaldo. As we now know the recipe to contract world-class players.
“It's Saudi Arabia that brought him, not a specific club. The money comes from one place – PIF.”