Could Lionel Messi be set to leave Paris Saint-Germain and join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi league has Messi in its sights
The Saudi Pro League is keen to tempt Lionel Messi to Saudi Arabia to join Cristiano Ronaldo, sources have told ESPN.
Ronaldo has signed a 2½ year deal worth $200 million a year with Al Nassr, for whom he made his league debut in a 1-0 win over Ettifaq on Sunday. Meanwhile, Messi is under contract with Paris Saint-Germain until the end of this season and the French club are keen to extend his deal. But Saudi league officials are making no secret of their desire to eventually have Argentina's World Cup-winning captain play in their country.
Football fans in the Saudi capital of Riyadh got a taste of what it could be like having both superstars in their domestic league when the pair faced off last week in a friendly between PSG and a Saudi select team made up of players from Al Nassr and Riyadh rivals Al Hilal. PSG won the match 5-4 with both Messi and Ronaldo -- who have won the Ballon d'Or 12 times between them -- getting on the scoresheet at the King Fahd International Stadium.
Sources have told ESPN that Saudi clubs will get help to sign top players from Europe following Ronaldo's arrival at Al Nassr.
Messi has a contract at PSG until the summer with the option to extend by another year. It has not been ruled out that the 35-year-old could extend his stay in Paris but sources have told ESPN that when he decides to leave, there will be Saudi Pro League clubs in the queue for his signature.
Messi could expect to earn a salary in Saudi in line with Ronaldo's mammoth contract, which has made the Portugal captain the best-paid athlete in the world.
Saudi professional clubs are allowed to register seven foreign players, but the limit is set to be raised to eight in an effort to tempt more overseas players to the league.