Lionel Messi might have turned down a million-dollar offer to play in Saudi Arabia after ending his contract with PSG but the Argentinian star has struck an important deal with the country’s Tourism Board. The details of the three-year contract have been revealed by the New York Times showing that Messi could receive up to 22.5 million euros over three years for a few commercial appearances, a handful of social media posts, and some all-expenses-paid vacations in the kingdom with his family and children.
Don’t miss out on everything Saudi is offering.Lionel Messi
The document contains one condition: Messi may not say anything that could “tarnish” Saudi Arabia, as the New York Times wields. Messi, who won the World Cup with Argentina in December, joins other sportsmen recruited to offer a good global image. In addition to the investment made by the Saudi kingdom to acquire other professional sports such as the purchase of a team in the Premier League, boxing matches, Formula 1, professional golf, paddle tennis, beach volleyball.
In February 2021, a few weeks after closing the deal, Messi wrote a letter to the Saudi Arabian Minister of Tourism apologizing for not being able to make the scheduled visit. He informed that he had to be absent due to his obligations as a footballer, then with FC Barcelona, for his La Liga match against Real Betis and the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Sevilla FC.
According to the New York Times, the details of Messi’s contract with the tourism authority had been a closely guarded secret. It is unclear whether the contract reviewed by The Times is the current version of the deal which shows that Messi is to receive €1.8 million for an annual five-day vacation with his family, or two annual three-day periods. He can take up to 20 family members and friends; the expenses are paid by the Saudi government.
There is also a clause in which Messi gets another 1.8 million euros for promoting Saudi Arabia on his social networks 10 times a year, as well as showing the world his vacation in the country. It adds 1.8 million for participating in an annual tourism campaign, and another 1.8 million for charity work and other appearances. The contract dated January 1st, 2021, was signed by Messi and his brother Rodrigo, the player’s commercial manager.
The country has been accused of “sports washing” in connection with human rights violations. In a September 2022 lawsuit, the PGA Tour accused Saudi Arabia of using “astronomical sums of money to use the LIV Players and the game of golf to sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities,” as reported by ESPN.
Messi was offered $429 million a year to join Saudi Arabia’s soccer club, Al Hilal, according to The Athletic, but Messi chose to join the Major League Soccer (MLS) team, Inter Miami, in Florida. Insider reports that Messi could receive a portion of MLS’s $2.5 billion deal with Apple. The Silicon Valley company has signed an agreement to stream the league’s matches for the next ten years. English football star David Beckham co-founded the Inter Miami.