After the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by the Saudi football club Al-Nassr, speculation increased that world champion Lionel Messi would move to the desert state. The usually well-informed Spanish trade newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported on Thursday that Al-Nassr’s city rivals Al-Hilal are looking to offer the 35-year-old Argentine Paris Saint-Germain superstar a $350 million annual salary. That would be the equivalent of more than 320 million euros. Messi’s contract in Paris expires on June 30. He could then move on a free transfer. According to media reports, Inter Miami and Messi’s regular club FC Barcelona are also interested in the six-time world footballer.

Before “Mundo Deportivo” other media had reported on the sensational million-dollar offer considered by Al-Hilal. Much of the money would come from the state. The Spanish newspaper explained the goals behind it: It’s not just about Al-Hilal, it said. Oil-rich and financially strong Saudi Arabia wants to host the 2030 World Cup together with Egypt and Greece and needs professionals like Ronaldo and Messi as figureheads of the local Pro League to win the bid. However, according to Mundo Deportivo’s report, no offer has been made to Messi yet.

Ronaldo recently signed with Al-Nassr for two and a half years. According to media reports, the 37-year-old should get the equivalent of around 200 million euros per season including advertising revenue. And he should also stir the drum for Saudi Arabia’s World Cup candidacy, it said. At home, the striker has therefore already been insulted by the media as a “traitor”. Portugal also wants to compete with Spain and Ukraine to host the 2030 World Cup.

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