The beginning of the end of the relationship between French soccer power Paris Saint Germain and star forward Lionel Messi seems to be underway.
Messi will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season. There are no doubts about that anymore.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 3, 2023
Behind the scenes, it’s now understood that Leo’s father Jorge communicated the decision to PSG already one month ago due to the project.
It was the final breaking point. pic.twitter.com/Bwehuvyq1E
This comes less than a week after PSG suspended Messi for an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia, and according to the French sports daily newspaper L’Equipe, PSG has also decided not to renew Messi’s contract.
So let’s unpack a few things here, to figure out why Messi won’t be coming back to PSG.
Relationship between Messi and Saudi Arabia
Lionel Messi serves as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia, a part of a sponsorship deal Messi has signed with the country. Messi has served the tourism ambassador since May of 2022, and in this role Messi would attend various events during the Jeddah season. Saudi Arabia hasn’t been shy in their attempts to get into sports sponsorships, especially in the world of soccer. Star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr FC, and PSG played Al Nassr in a friendly earlier this year. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s state tourism authority was awarded sponsorship of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, a move that womens’ soccer stars such as Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze have openly criticized. In March, FIFA scrapped the sponsorship with Saudi Arabia and have yet to comment on it.
It’s worth noting that PSG is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, and the political relationship between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is strained to say the least. Qatar’s only land border is Saudi Arabia, and access was blocked for almost a year due to a boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Messi goes to Jeddah
In this case, according to ESPN’s Julien Laurens, PSG Manager Christophe Galtier and sporting director Luis Campos gave Messi the green light to go if PSG could score a win or draw against Lorient. PSG would end up losing to Lorient 3-1, yet Messi still went. This time, he didn’t ask for permission, which caused tensions amongst other players in the locker room, according to Laurens.
Messi’s contract expires at the end of this season, and PSG will not be extending.
Where will Messi go next?
MLS side Inter Miami has been linked heavily to Messi, with the possibility of landing both Messi and Sergio Busquets. Even MLS commissioner Don Garber is fully behind the move. On the other side, there’s Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal. Fabrizio Romano has reported that the Saudi side has offered Messi up to $438 million per year, but Messi still wants to play in Europe.
Which leads us back to Barcelona. Barcelona is still in financial turmoil, the same turmoil that forced Messi to leave in the first place, but it seems like everyone wants Messi back at the Camp Nou. Barcelona manager Xavi has “left the door open” for Messi to return, and Barca striker Robert Lewandowski even said he hopes to play with Messi next season.
All we know for sure is that Messi’s time in Paris is over, and not without a lot of struggle.