“Saudi soccer club Al-Hilal makes world record $332M US bid for France’s Mbappe”

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Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe will be laughing all the way to the bank if he can agree to a deal with Saudi soccer club Al-Halil, which has made a $332-million US bid for the superstar. (Julien de Rosa/AFP via Getty Images)

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After missing out on Lionel Messi, Saudi soccer club Al-Hilal made a record 300 million euro ($332 million US) bid for Kylian Mbappe on Monday, an offer which could see the France striker join Cristiano Ronaldo in the oil-rich kingdom.

Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the offer for its player and has given Al-Hilal permission to open negotiations directly with Mbappe.

The 2018 World Cup winner is in a contract standoff with PSG after his decision not to take up the option of a 12-month extension on his deal. Instead, he plans to walk away as a free agent at the end of the upcoming season when he is widely expected to join Real Madrid.

PSG cut Mbappe from its preseason tour of Japan on Saturday, with the French club determined to sell him unless he can be convinced to sign a new contract.

A new deal now looks highly unlikely with relations between the 24-year-old Mbappe and PSG becoming increasingly tense.

Saudi Arabia has sought in recent years to buy its way into international sports. Besides Ronaldo, whose contract reportedly earns him up to $200 million a year, Saudi-funded LIV Golf has shaken up professional golf.

The moves are part of efforts by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to leverage the kingdom’s oil wealth to provide new jobs and opportunities for Saudi Arabia’s youth. However, critics have dismissed the efforts as “sportswashing,” attempting to leverage professional sports to clean up the kingdom’s image as it remains one of the world’s top executioners and waging a years-long war in Yemen.

U.S. intelligence agencies also believe Prince Mohammed ordered the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Earlier this year, Al-Hilal failed to sign Messi, with the Argentina great choosing to join Inter Miami instead.

The bid for Mbappe would make him the most expensive soccer player in history, overtaking the $262 million PSG paid for Neymar, who joined from Barcelona in 2017.

The offer represents Saudi Arabia’s most ambitious move yet as part of a determined recruitment drive to lure the game’s biggest players to the country.

After Ronaldo agreed to join Al-Nassr in December, Saudi soccer clubs have gone into overdrive by targeting leading names from Europe’s top leagues. Real Madrid great and current Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema signed for Saudi soccer club Al-Ittihad last month and has been joined by 2018 World Cup winner N’Golo Kante.

Roberto Firmino, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marcelo Brozovic are among other big names to head to the lucrative Saudi league, which is making mega-money offers to players in a bid to raise the profile and quality of soccer in the country.

While that was not enough to convince Messi to join Al-Hilal after leaving PSG, more stars are expected to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo and Co.

Premier League players like Riyad Mahrez and Jordan Henderson have recently been linked with moves from Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively.

The reported salaries and commercial deals for Ronaldo, Benzema and Kante could earn them a combined figure of nearly $1 billion.

Mbappe has said he plans to see out the final year of his contract, which would leave PSG powerless to prevent him from leaving for nothing next year.

The French champions, who are owned by Qatar Sports Investments, have already seen Messi leave for nothing in return and are determined to earn a fee for a player who is widely considered one of the few capable of taking over from Messi and Ronaldo as soccer’s biggest star.

His omission from PSG’s touring squad in Japan raises the possibility that he could be benched next season if he refuses to sign a contract or agree to leave during this transfer window.

Al-Hilal are said to be among a host of clubs that have been alerted to his potential availability, but it is unlikely any could match the bid that has been put forward.

There has been an expectation that he would join Madrid, which had a bid of $190 million rejected by PSG in 2021. Madrid needs a top class forward after losing Benzema at the end of the season.

Mbappe had until July 31 to trigger a one-year extension on his contract. He has been at the club since 2017 after signing from Monaco in a transfer worth a reported $190 million.

Kylian Mbappe has told Paris Saint-Germain he will not take up the option of a 12-month extension on his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

The France superstar confirmed his decision in a letter to PSG, a person with knowledge of the correspondence told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

The person also said PSG would not allow Mbappe to leave as a free agent, raising the possibility of an immediate bidding war by other clubs and potential transfer this summer.

The French club, which is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, has already seen Lionel Messi leave for nothing in return, with the Argentine great making a stunning move to MLS team Inter Miami.

There is also uncertainty about the future of another PSG star — Brazil international Neymar.

But the potential departure of the 24-year-old Mbappe would be the greatest loss to PSG, given that he is a national icon and widely considered one of the few players capable of taking over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as soccer’s biggest star.

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Kylian Mbappe (7), Lionel Messi (30) and Neymar (10) walk off the field for Paris Saint-Germain on June 3. Messi announced his intent to sign with Inter Miami in the MLS on Wednesday, Mbappe reportedly informed the club on Monday he did not intend to trigger an extension, and uncertainty surrounds Neymar’s future with the club. (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

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Mbappe had until July 31 to trigger a one-year extension to his contract. He has been at the club since 2017 after signing from Monaco in a transfer worth a reported $190 million US.

In 2021, PSG turned down a bid of $190 million from Real Madrid for the World Cup-winning forward, who went on to sign his current contract.

Mbappe hoped to help PSG win its first Champions League title, but the team suffered another disappointment in European soccer’s top competition, which Manchester City went on to win by beating Inter Milan 1-0 in the final on Saturday.

The young striker is likely to be linked with a move to Madrid, particularly after Karim Benzema left the Spanish giant for Saudi soccer club team Al-Ittihad.

Madrid has already agreed to a deal for England midfielder Jude Bellingham. The potential acquisition of Mbappe would be a major statement of intent after it relinquished its Spanish league and Champions League titles this year.

PSG was planning a change of strategy after moves for the biggest stars failed to bring success in Europe. The new focus would be on young, French talent. Mbappe was expected to be at the heart of that shift and it had been hoped he would sign a longer-term contract.

Mbappe has won five French league titles with PSG and was a World Cup winner with France in 2018.

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Lionel Messi has pulled off his latest stunning feat: He is headed to Major League Soccer and joining Inter Miami.

After months — years, even — of speculation, Messi on Wednesday finally revealed his decision to join a Miami franchise that has been led by another global soccer icon, David Beckham, since its inception but has yet to make any real splashes on the field.

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Lionel Messi, shown in this file photo, led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar in December and has earned a record seven Ballon d’Or awards. He also won the Ligue 1 title in his two seasons with PSG as well as the French Super Cup in 2022. ( Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images/File)

That likely will soon change. One of Inter Miami’s owners, Jorge Mas, tweeted out a photo of a darkly silhouetted Messi jersey shortly before the Argentinian great revealed his decision in interviews with Spanish news outlets Mundo Deportivo and Sport.

It was widely believed that Messi eventually would choose to play forSaudi soccer club Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, following longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo to a nation where some clubs now are funded by the state’s sovereign wealth fund. Going back to Barcelona, a storied franchise where he spent most of his career, was another possibility.

But in the end, he made the call that surprised many. Messi is joining MLS. He said in the interviews Wednesday that some final details still need to be worked out, but that he has made the call to “continue my path” in Miami.

“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the league of the United States to live football in another way,” Messi said.

He didn’t take the money. He didn’t choose the memories. He picked Miami instead. Messi’s next matches are likely to be exhibitions with Argentina against Australia on June 15 at Beijing and at Indonesia in Jakarta four days later — and then his Inter Miami debut figures to be sometime in July.

We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer,” read a statement from MLS. “Although work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league.”

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner — the trophy given annually to the world’s best player — makes his move after two years with Paris Saint-Germain. At 35, Messi has nothing left to prove in the game and filled the only significant unchecked box on his resume back in December by leading Argentina to the World Cup title.

Messi has more than 800 goals in his career for club and country, making him one of the greatest scorers in the sport’s history. In more than 17 years of representing Argentina on the international stage, he has scored 102 goals against 38 different national team opponents — 16 of those goals coming on U.S. soil. He scored twice in last year’s World Cup final against France, a match that ended 3-3 with Argentina prevailing 4-2 on penalty kicks.

He has been to the absolute mountaintop of the game. He is a four-time Champions League winner and his 129 goals in the top club competition are second to Ronaldo’s 140. Messi has won 10 La Liga titles and two Ligue 1 championships, seven Copa del Reys and three Club World Cups plus a Copa America and Olympic gold medal for Argentina.

And now he comes to MLS, and a team that is struggling — last place in the Eastern Conference, just a few days removed from the firing of coach Phil Neville (who was hand-picked by Beckham two years ago).

Messi’s decision to play in the U.S. might be the biggest boost ever for American soccer on the pro stage. Some of the game’s biggest names — Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Thierry Henry and Beckham himself — have come to the U.S. toward the end of their careers, but landing a player still no worse than near the pinnacle of his game and just a few months removed from hoisting a World Cup is simply huge.

This is obviously the biggest signing that they’ve brought in,” said Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman, a U.S. national team regular. “It’s kind of reminiscent of Beckham when he came originally. You saw how the league has kind of changed in the 15 years since he arrived, and hopefully 15 years from now we’re seeing all the growth from this addition to the league. I think it’s a great thing.

I think it’ll be great for the sport in this country, especially ahead of the 2026 World Cup. And I’m excited to play against him.”

It took months of negotiations with MLS, the Miami ownership, Adidas and even Apple getting involved in a creative pitch to bring Messi to Miami’s pitch. Apple — which is a broadcast partner of MLS — announced Tuesday that it will show a still-untitled four-part documentary series “featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes access to global superstar Lionel Messi. … In his own words, Messi tells the definitive story of his incredible career with the Argentina national football team, providing an intimate and unprecedented look at his quest for a legacy-defining World Cup victory.”

And now, his story will have a Miami chapter. His move comes in a week when the NBA’s Miami Heat and NHL’s Florida Panthers are both at home in their respective title series — and the Heat, during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, flashed a graphic on their scoreboard welcoming Messi to Miami.

The Heat trailed by 21 points at the time. A few people cheered anyway.

Inter Miami needed six years from inception to playing its first match, and its first four seasons have been less than stellar.

Messi is joining a team that sits last in the Eastern Conference and just fired its coach. It has made the playoffs in two of its first three seasons but has yet to finish a season with a winning record or even a positive goal differential.

Still, there have been hints for months that Miami remained very much in the Messi sweepstakes. Messi met with Inter Miami co-owner Beckham this spring, and that was shared publicly almost to ensure that everyone knew the sides were still talking. Messi and his family also own several pieces of luxury real estate in South Florida, and — almost as if to suggest something big was coming — the MLS club told fans the only way they could get tickets for the second half of this season was to purchase a season-ticket package.

He’s an enormous draw everywhere on the globe, including Miami. Two days after Argentina won the World Cup, Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry sat on his team’s bench for a game unable to play because of injury. He wore a Messi jersey that night.

Inter Miami still plays home matches in a temporary home in Fort Lauderdale, about 45 minutes north of the site in Miami where the team wants to build a permanent complex.

And even in an area where the population has a serious Latin flavor, and where more people might actually call the sport futbol than soccer, Inter Miami has struggled to generate the same attention as do the area’s primary pro teams — basketball’s Heat, baseball’s Miami Marlins, football’s Miami Dolphins and hockey’s Florida Panthers.

Messi could change that in an instant. In a flash, he becomes the biggest name in MLS and makes everything Miami does newsworthy.

Barcelona released a statement saying Jorge Messi, the player’s father, told the club president Joan Laporta of the decision to go to Miami.

“President Laporta understood and respected Messi’s decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years,” the statement from Barcelona said.

His decision ends what has been a wild saga. Barcelona made Messi a superstar, but the financial issues that forced the team to letting him go two years ago still remain an issue.

“I heard that they’d have to sell players or lower players’ salaries and the truth is, I didn’t want to go through that,” Messi said Wednesday.

There are no financial issues with Saudi Arabia, and speculation that he would end up there intensified when Messi made an unauthorized trip to the kingdom. PSG suspended him and some fans turned on him, serenading him with jeers toward the end of his season with the French club.

Everyone knew he wouldn’t be back with PSG. Few likely thought he was heading to Miami. But here he is, a move to Miami by a superstar that might even be more shocking than LeBron James arriving to join the Heat 13 years ago.

MLS issued a brief statement following the announcement.

“We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami CF and Major League Soccer this summer. Although work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league,” it said.

Canada coach John Herdman calls Lionel Messi coming to North America an “absolute coup” for MLS.

“If he was a bit younger, I would have hoped he came to a Canadian club. We’d keep him for five years and get his [Canadian] passport,” Herdman said with a smile in a virtual media availability before the Messi move was confirmed. “That would have been awesome.”

“But I think MLS is just growing and growing and growing,” he added. “Every year you see new teams, better facilities, a better standard of play, a more competitive style of play. We’ve seen the Italians [Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi] arrive at Toronto. You’ve seen Messi now, hopefully, coming into a club that he’ll transform — the fan base, he’ll transform the interest. I think it’s an absolute coup for MLS.”

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