Weeks after rival Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled as Saudi club Al Nassr’s $A300 million-a-year signing, it’s been revealed Lionel Messi is being eyed by Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal in a deal worth much more.
Ronaldo’s deal made him the highest-paid sports star in the world by some stretch as he prepares to finish his career with the club.
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But according to Mundo Deportivo, Messi could leapfrog the Portuguese star with a huge salary of his own.
The Argentine, 35, is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain in the summer but reportedly has a “verbal agreement” with the Ligue 1 champions to extend his stay in the French capital.
But he is now being linked with a lucrative move to Al Hilal, who are the bitter rivals of Ronaldo’s Al Nassr. The two teams play the Riyadh Derby each year.
The deal would see Messi earn around A$430 million a year, $130m more than Ronaldo.
Messi also has Saudi links, having signed a $40m deal to promote tourism in the country.
The news comes as Ronaldo was left off the the 14-player shortlist for the annual best FIFA men’s player award for the first time, with Messi and Kylian Mbappé among those selected.
Ronaldo, who was released by Manchester United and benched by Portugal during the World Cup, won the FIFA award the first two times it was handed out — in 2016 and 2017 — and was among the three finalists the following three years. This was the first time he was not even selected as a contender by a FIFA-appointed expert panel.
The award was rebranded in 2016 following a six-year period where the former FIFA World Player of the Year Award had merged with the annual Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo finished seventh in the voting last year, when Robert Lewandowski won for the second time in a row ahead of Messi and Mohamed Salah.
Aside from Messi, the only member of Argentina’s World Cup-winning team to make the list of nominees is forward Julián Álvarez.
Lewandowski is also on the list, which includes just four players who did not play at the World Cup.
Karim Benzema, the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, and Sadio Mané were injured ahead of the tournament in Qatar, while Erling Haaland and Salah were not there because their countries, Norway and Egypt, respectively, did not qualify.
The other players nominated are Jude Bellingham, Kevin De Bruyne, Achraf Hakimi, Luka Modrić, Neymar and Vinícius Junior.
Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas is among 14 nominees for the Best FIFA Women’s Player prize. The list also includes Beth Mead, Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson from European champion England. Putella, the Spain playmaker, missed the tournament in England because of an injury.
Alex Morgan is the only player nominated from the United States team which will defend its World Cup title this year.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is among five nominees for the men’s coaching award, a list that also includes Walid Regragui after Morocco became the first team from Africa to reach the World Cup semifinals.
The other coaches nominated are Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, France’s Didier Deschamps and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.
England coach Sarina Wiegman, who is from the Netherlands, is among six nominees for the coaching award in women’s soccer.
The 11 goals competing for the Puskas Award include two scored at the World Cup – Mbappé’s volleyed second goal against Argentina in the final and Richarlison’s bicycle kick for Brazil against Serbia.
Supporters from Argentina and Japan are among three nominees for the fan award.
FIFA cited Argentina fans’ fervor in Qatar and the passion shown when welcoming the winning team at home, and lauded Japanese fans for their World Cup tradition of staying back after games to clean the stadium.
Voting is done by national team captains and coaches worldwide along with selected journalists, and there is an online vote by fans which runs through February 3.
The winners are announced at a February 27 ceremony in Paris.
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