Lionel Messi has turned down a mind-boggling offer of €30 million a year from an unidentified Russian club, according to Mundo Deportivo. The reported deal would have almost doubled his salary at Barcelona and made him the highest-paid player in the world by some margin.
Messi’s father and agent, Jorge Messi, apparently refused the offer, formally reiterating his son’s loyalty to Barcelona—the club that took him in at the early age of 12.
The same article stated that the club would have offered the €30 million in wages on top of the €250 million buyout clause Messi has on his contract. The buyout clause was accorded in the contract the Argentine signed this month extending his commitment to Barcelona to 2018. By that time, Messi will be 31 years old, meaning he has pretty much pledged lifelong loyalty to Barcelona.
Mundo Deportivo reported the mega-offer was allegedly brought forward last month, before the signing of Messi’s contract with Barcelona. However, Jorge Messi is believed not to have used the offer as leverage during the negotiation with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.
The Russian club in question has not been identified, although it seems most likely to be Anzhi Makhachkala. Anzhi would then be trying to reunite Messi with Cameroonian forward and former Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto’o, who joined the club in August of 2011. The 31-year-old striker signed from Italian club Inter Milan for a reported €28 million.
Their squad is currently captained by Eto’o, who earns €20.5 million a year. This sum makes him the player with the highest base salary in the world, ahead of Messi (on €16 million a year) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€14.5 million a year at PSG).
Other star players having decided to take their football to Russia include former Chelsea left-back Yuri Zhirkov and former Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra.
Anzhi are a very peculiar football club to say the least.
Their home is in Dagestan, a region sharing a border with Chechnya in southwest Russia that has been torn apart by ethnic conflicts and a state of quasi-civil war for the last few years. In fact, their 15,000 capacity home stadium is situated in such a volatile location that the players have to be flown more than 1,200 miles from Moscow for each home game.
On top of these conditions, that would surely make Messi think twice before leaving the city that has been his home for the past 13 years—the move would make little sense in football terms. Despite their seemingly bottomless funds, Anzhi have yet to assemble a full squad, or even a starting XI, of world-class players.
Trading the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas for a midfield composed of Russian players with little or no experience at the highest level would surely be a reason in itself to refuse the offer.