Messi Receives Offers from Barça and Al-Hilal as Tensions with PSG Flare


Tensions have risen between Messi and Paris Saint-Germain. Photo: Hossein Zohrevand via Wikimedia Commons.

Following a 3-1 loss against Lorient on April 30th, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) forward Lionel Messi was reported to be missing from training. The next day, Messi skipped a club practice to go to Saudi Arabia on a promotional trip with the Saudi Club Al-Hilal.

Club manager Christophe Gaultier reportedly said that training would be canceled on the following Monday and Tuesday if the fixture against Lorient ended in a victory. While PSG stated the Argentine’s request to take Monday off was declined, Messi took the stance that he believed that he would get the time off regardless of the score against Lorient.

While Gaultier had made the choice on the allotted time off for the players, Messi was assigned a two-week suspension without pay by the PSG board. After the suspension was given, Messi released an apology video. In the video, he stated that he had already planned the trip,  as he believed he would receive an off-day after the win, as had happened in previous weeks. With conflicting stories from Messi and the French club, tensions are undoubtedly high.

On May 7, Lionel Messi received his second Sportsman of the Year Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards, an unprecedented achievement for a soccer player. In the apology video released by Messi, the World Cup winner is seen wearing the same suit in which he received the award. There was much speculation in French media as to whether wearing this suit was an intentional choice meant to signify his value to the club. This speculation adds up with past events, as it has been reported that Messi has not felt valued at the club. In previous games, boos were directed at Messi and fellow PSG forward, Neymar, further deteriorating the Messi-PSG relationship.

In the previous weeks leading up to the incident, there were several other occasions where Messi reportedly refused to comply with Gaultier’s orders. The manager has been reported to be doing a poor job controlling the players, and some theorize that Messi has lost respect for Gaultier.

Following Argentina’s victory in the World Cup, players received ceremonies and award presentations at their clubs around the world. Messi received neither a ceremony nor a presentation of the award, to the dismay of fans on social media. The incident was considered the first major blow to the relationship between Messi and the PSG board.

The second major blow came when the suspension was issued from the PSG board. At this point, Messi’s relationship with PSG officials, the club’s manager and the fanbase has been all but “destroyed.”

As Messi’s future drifts further from a contract renewal at PSG, reports of a potential return to FC Barcelona (Barça) have surfaced. However, Messi’s agent and father, Jorge Messi, has put out several statements displaying his anger at the media for its speculation on the situation, saying that Messi’s future has been far from decided. Messi seconds this statement, saying that he is focused on his present time at PSG rather than the likelihood of a future there.

Barça, however, has openly stated that they are looking to return the Argentine legend. A major roadblock for the Catalan giants is the club’s recent financial problems, as the club was reported to be $608 million in debt as of June 30th, 2022.

Messi will be a free agent this summer, but, in order to sign Messi and register him at the club, Barça must present a financial plan to the board of La Liga, the top Spanish soccer league. There are three major ways Barcelona has planned to raise enough money. Firstly, Barça plans on selling players that have not proved useful to the club. Second, Barcelona will also likely be suing officials at La Liga and prominent members of Spanish media for defamation after misfounded accusations of a ref-paying scandal. Lastly, Barcelona will receive large increases in television revenues following their anticipated victory in the La Liga title race.

Messi was also linked to a potential transfer to Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, which he took the recently controversial promotional trip with. Messi’s former rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, recently joined Al-Hilal’s rivals, Al Nassr, for an offer worth $200 million on Dec. 30. Messi, on the other hand, was offered $400 million.

On May 8, La Liga talk show El Chiringuito tweeted that Messi is set to accept this offer along with his former Barcelona teammate, Sergio Busquets. Both players will be free agents after June 30, and another former Barça player, Jordi Alba, will reportedly also join them if he can make a deal with Barça to terminate his contract early.