Rumours of Lionel Messi joining Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia ran wild today after Messi took an unauthorised trip to the kingdom to visit his former rival – earning him a suspension from Paris Saint-Germain in the process.
According to a report from French newspaper L’Equipe, Messi asked PSG if he could skip training on Monday to travel to Saudi Arabia to honour his contract as the country’s tourism ambassador.
But PSG Manager Christian Galtier and sporting director Luis Campos both told their players that they would be given two days off on Monday and Tuesday if they won or drew against Lorient last Sunday. If they lost, the players were instructed to return to training on Monday.
Les Parisiens suffered a shocking 3-1 defeat and as previously announced, players were called in for training last Monday – yet Messi defied the instruction and went to Saudi Arabia anyway.
PSG was reportedly mulling on handing out a fine to Messi since the situation created tensions within the dressing room, with some players unhappy with the incident. Ultimately, PSG decided to give Messi a bigger punishment, by suspending him for two weeks without pay.
Could Messi be joining Ronaldo soon in Saudi Arabia?
Messi was appointed as Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambassador in May 2022. He visited Jeddah that month and then returned to the country last January to play a friendly match with PSG versus a team of Saudi League stars, facing off against his longtime rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed a record $200 million per year deal with Saudi club Al Nassr at the start of this year.
Last month, Fox Sports reported that Saudi League squad Al Hilal sent Messi a mind-boggling $400 million offer – double the value of Ronaldo’s deal with Al Nassr.
Saudi football officials are hoping that Ronaldo’s presence in the country will help convince Messi to leave Europe and play in Asia to renew one of football’s greatest rivalries in the oil-rich nation.
WATCH Ronaldo and Messi talk about their viral joint ad campaign with Louis Vuitton below.
Saudi Arabia is looking to become a major soccer player
The signing of Ronaldo at Al Nassr and Messi becoming Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambassador is just part of the grand plan to put Saudi Arabia firmly on the world soccer map and make it a major player in the sport.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has just committed to spending over US$2 billion on long-term soccer sponsorships in the coming years and has also been on a buying spree of European clubs – such as Newcastle United and Belgium’s KV Oostende. Saudi Arabia is also pushing to host 75% of the games of a 2030 World Cup joint bid with Greece and Egypt.
On top of that, ESPN also recently reported that the Saudi League is looking at adding up to 50 players from Europe’s five soccer leagues. Lionel Messi ending up in Saudi could very well be part of that.