Lionel Messi is expected to decide on a move to either Barcelona or Inter Miami with sources telling ESPN that senior figures behind an attempt to take the Argentina forward to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal fear the player has lost interest in moving to the Middle East.
Media reports on Wednesday said that Messi has reached a deal with Inter Miami but a spokesperson for the Major League Soccer club declined comment when asked to confirm or deny by ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle.
Messi, 35, is due to become a free agent when his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expires on June 30 and the French champions announced last week that the former Barca star, who moved to Parc des Princes in 2021, will not remain at the club beyond the end of his existing deal.
ESPN reported in April that Al Hilal, one of four Saudi Pro League clubs taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) this week, had made an offer for Messi to move to the country, with sources saying that the club believed they had a “50-50” chance of signing the player.
But while Al Hilal’s offer remains on the table, sources in Saudi Arabia have told ESPN that contact with the Messi camp has diminished and that there is a growing acceptance that he is now torn between a return to Barca, with whom he won 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League prior to his exit to PSG, and a move to Miami to play for the MLS franchise part-owned by David Beckham.
One source said that the choice for Messi now boils down to an emotional return to Barca or a commercially-driven move to the United States with Inter Miami.
Separate sources have also told ESPN that Barcelona, while determined to re-sign their greatest-ever player, must overcome “complications” to get a deal done due to the need to prove the financial feasibility of any agreement to LaLiga.
Miami, who parted company with head coach Phil Neville last week, have engaged in a long-term attempt to sign Messi and remain contenders, but must beat Barcelona to the Argentine’s signature in order to secure the biggest-ever signing for MLS.
Information from ESPN’s Sam Marsden was included in this report.