Saudi Arabia - Football fans in Saudi Arabia cannot keep calm! The excitement at the possibility of superstar Lionel Messi joining the nation's Pro League swelled after it was announced he would visit the kingdom this month for a third time in less than a year.
Saudi Arabia's Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al Khatib, said that the Argentine would visit KSA on holiday. "I am happy to welcome our Tourism Ambassador and star Lionel Messi and his family and friends this month on his second visit to Saudi to enjoy our most beautiful tourism destinations, connect with our people and enjoy unique experiences," Al Khatib wrote on Twitter.
Saudi appointed Messi its tourism ambassador last year, and he visited Jeddah in May before returning in January to play a friendly match with PSG against a team of Saudi League stars when he faced rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
This recent planned visit has renewed speculations about Messi joining the Saudi Pro League after Ronaldo's eye-watering Al Nassr deal last year - widely reported to be worth more than 200 million euros over 2 1/2 years.
Local media reported Al Hilal and Al Ittihad's interest in signing the Argentine. The Saudi sports website reported that Al Hilal had already made him a "huge offer" to join once his contract with PSG ends in June.
According to European media, Saudi clubs are willing to go all out for Lionel Messi. He is reportedly set to be offered a deal worth $234 million a season to make a move. The fact that Messi's father and agent, Jorge Messi, is in Saudi much ahead of the footballer's visit isn't helping to quill the transfer rumours.
Jorge arrived in the country on Tuesday, although some point out he travelled there to negotiate commercial deals. The 35-year-old is yet to confirm his stay in Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), with the current deal running until June. Messi will become a free agent if he does not agree to extend before that.
Meanwhile, Messi's popularity is growing in Saudi, with Al Ittihad fans chanting his name in a local match on Friday, and club president Anmar Al Haeli referred to a Messi deal in a video last week, saying "God willing. The deal needs time and arrangement."
Ramon Diaz, coach of Al Hilal, told reporters last month: "The presence of Ronaldo makes us believe that Messi may come to Saudi Arabia as well. Saudi football is growing significantly and seems capable of attracting the biggest players."
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