Messi’s decision looms with Al-Hilal, Barcelona and Inter Miami possible options

PSG's Lionel Messi reacts during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (Aurelien Morissard/AP)

LONDON (AP) — The soccer world is waiting for Lionel Messi’s decision.

The Argentina great, fresh off winning the World Cup in December, is essentially a free agent after bidding adieu to Paris Saint-Germain. The big question now surrounds where he will go next.

Things are still up in the air, however, sparking frenzied rumors about the next destination of one of the greatest soccer players in history.

There’s the possibility of moving to Saudi Arabia, where attempts to bring in some of soccer’s most high-profile — if aging — stars ratcheted up when the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund took a majority ownership stake of four of the country’s top clubs. They include Al-Nassr, the team of Cristiano Ronaldo since January; Al-Ittihad, the new team of reigning world player of the year Karim Benzema; and Al-Hilal, the team heavily linked with a move for the 35-year-old Messi.

Messi, after all, has already established a relationship with Saudi Arabia by agreeing to a commercial contract with the oil-rich Middle Eastern country last year to promote tourism there.

There’s also the sentimental pull of Barcelona, where Messi’s father — Jorge — was on Monday to intensify speculation about a possible return to the Spanish club by his son.

Messi “would like to return” to Barcelona, Jorge Messi said, but it seems a push if the club — in economic turmoil in recent years — is going to meet the Spanish league’s strict financial fair play rules.

How about Messi moving to Inter Miami, the MLS team co-owned by David Beckham which has occasionally been linked with the seven-time world player of the year and now has an Argentine interim coach in Javier Morales?

It would be a major boost for American soccer, which has attracted superstars like Pele, Beckham and Thierry Henry over the years, but signing Messi might require something creative from both the league and the Miami team.

The most recent post on Messi’s Instagram account was on May 28 and shows him playing for PSG.

He won’t be there next season, that’s for sure. He played his last game — to a backdrop of jeers — for the French team on Saturday.

The wait is on to see where he ends up.

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