Report: Messi unlikely to extend PSG contract, Saudi optimism growing
Lionel Messi has seemingly had a change of heart.
The Argentine superstar is now unlikely to extend his contract with Paris Saint-Germain, sources told Julien Laurens of ESPN.
PSG want Messi to take a 25% pay cut from his existing salary, according to Laurens. The World Cup winner reportedly makes €40 million gross per year. Messi and his camp are not prepared to meet that request, Laurens adds, while the player himself is disillusioned after some PSG fans jeered him at the Parc des Princes prior to Sunday's loss against Lyon.
Laurens reported in December that Messi, whose current deal expires this summer, had agreed "in principle" to remain with the French club for at least one more season. It was noted at the time, however, that negotiations had yet to officially take place.
Talks between the two sides, once viewed as a formality prior to Messi's triumphant World Cup campaign with Argentina, are now at a standstill.
"The dynamics have completely changed with PSG less pushing to renew (his contract)," a source close to the club told AFP. They added, "The fans have changed things completely."
That's fostered optimism in Saudi Arabia, where Riyadh-based club Al Hilal have become legitimate contenders to land Messi, sources told Mark Ogden of ESPN. The Saudi Pro League club now has up to a "50-50" chance of signing the World Cup winner, Ogden reports.
Al Hilal tabled an offer for Messi that includes a salary package worth over €400 million per year, according to transfer insider Fabrizio Romano. The country, keen on expanding its influence in world football, will host the Club World Cup in December and is expected to formally present a bid later this year to stage the 2030 men's World Cup.
Should he move to the Middle East, Messi, already a tourism ambassador for Saudi Arabia, would follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star captains Al Hilal's local rivals, Al Nassr.
Messi's priority at this time is to remain in Europe, Romano notes, but his options seem limited.
Messi's father and agent, Jorge, is scheduled to meet with PSG officials later in April to see if a compromise can be reached. Barcelona vice president Rafa Yuste said in March that the Catalan club had been in contact with the 35-year-old's representatives about a potential return to the Camp Nou. Financial restrictions could scupper that romantic reunion, though. Amid rumored interest from Inter Miami, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber admitted North America's top league is willing to "think outside the box" and be flexible in order to facilitate a deal for the iconic forward.
Messi, who has been uncharacteristically subdued on the pitch in recent weeks, still leads Ligue 1 this season with 26 goal involvements, scoring 13 times himself and providing the same number of assists.