You may have seen in the news this week that Lionel Messi was pictured with his family having fun in Saudi Arabia. Nothing wrong with that you might say? Well this was just a day after a disappointing defeat in the league and Paris Saint Germain fans seemed to have turned on Messi.
The fans always have a right to voice their opinions but was Messi in the right? After all he is an ambassador for Saudi Arabia and promoting the country and the sport in the country and around the world. Amnesty International have come out in no uncertain terms to say that this is all just “sportswashing”. And for my money that’s what it is. Saudi Arabian and middle eastern money is corrupting not only football but the majority of sports on the planet.
Why do you enjoy watching football and in particular the Premier League and Champions League. To me, it’s because no matter how small a club there is still competitiveness and a dream that we can beat Real Madrid, or we can beat Manchester United. You only have to look back to September 28th, 2021 and you have Sheriff Tiraspol, a Moldovan club beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the Bernabeu. We have seen the likes of Brentford and Brighton absolutely destroy Manchester United in the league this season.
I’m also a huge boxing fan and was really excited to see Usyk and Fury fight for all the belts and unify the Heavyweight division for the first time since Lennox Lewis. But due to Ramadan and Saudi Arabia not wanting to put an event on over that time the fighters pulled out. As if only £10-20m each wasn’t enough for them to fight at a packed Wembley Stadium. Then you have LIV golf, you have Tennis, talks of Snooker moving the World championships to Qatar, it’s not right.
Qatar to their credit put on an outstanding world cup, but look into the reasons why they were awarded the tournament and it gets very messy. Definitely one for a rainy afternoon! But back to the Messi situation, I personally just think its sad that Saudi Arabia have to pay a reported £320m a year to lure Messi over there, just to gain a little bit of recognition or any sort of spotlight on their own professional football league.
I think money is a great divider of people and Messi doesn’t need the money. What will this do for his legacy if anything? He’s a 7 time Ballon D’or winner, he’s a world cup winner and has won the champions league multiple times, countless league trophies and cup triumphs. There is nothing more to achieve in the game, and PSG were already paying him extortionately so would it hurt for our favourite players to show some humility and retire with honour rather than looking for the last payday. It sours his legacy for me, but for some, he will always be the GOAT, a legend, talked about forever.
But are we all snobs when it comes to football in the West. Would it be better if he went to Inter Miami or another American club for a final payday? There is a sense of snobbery about Middle Eastern sport. But money does buy you a seat at the table, it does buy you coverage globally, and I look forward to the day when a Saudi player plays in the premier league or they are legitimate threats in the World Cup. Football is a global game, put your cheque book away and invest in the infrastructure and policies that will make men and women across your nation take part in football and be excited to make it a viable career.