LIONEL MESSI admitted he almost followed Cristiano Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia.
The World Cup winner was named Time Magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023.
The Ballon d'Or winner shocked the world by turning down a contract from a Saudi club Al-Hilal reportedly worth £1BILLION.
He left Paris Saint-Germain for Inter Miami in July, and scored 11 goals in 14 games in all competitions to help them claim their first ever trophy.
Time Magazine acknowledged his arrival has resulted in an "unimaginable" growth of soccer in the US.
But Messi admitted he was close to joining old rival Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.
READ MORE FOOTBALL NEWS
Ex-Prem hero BANNED from swanky golf course that costs £100,000 to be a member
Get £40 in free bets when you stake £10 with Paddy Power
Ronaldo completed a £173m-a-year transfer to Al Nassr in 2022 and became the world's highest-paid sportsman.
Messi told Time:"I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country.
"They have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future.
“As the country’s tourism ambassador, it was a destination that attracted me."
Most read in Football
WHAT’S UP DOC?
Fans in disbelief as BBC TV star spotted on Luton’s bench against Arsenal
to be frank
Lampard closing in on next manager job with Chelsea icon on final shortlist
Bournemouth star Randolph surrounded by medics and carried off during warm-up
LUTON 3 ARSENAL 4
Rice scores LAST GASP winner to give Gunners all three points in thriller
FREE BETS – BEST BETTING OFFERS & NEW CUSTOMER BONUSES
But since his arrival at David Beckham's side, attendance, ticket prices, merchandise sales, and viewership have soared.
In addition to the more than £15.8 million a year, he would be granted an ownership stake in the team upon retirement.
Messi also claimed it was hard for him to not contemplate a return to Barcelona, the club he joined at aged 13.
He said: "My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen."
Beckham also added: "The one that really worried me was Barcelona.
“He never got to say goodbye to the fans, or say goodbye to the club.”
Source: Read Full Article