Hristo Stoichkov believes Lionel Messi snubbed a move to Saudi Arabia because “he loves football” and does not care about money.
Lionel Messi has shown he is “not about money” by rejecting a hugely lucrative offer from Al Hilal to sign for Inter Miami, says Hristo Stoichkov.
Messi confirmed his intention to join Miami in June after it was announced he would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent.
The 36-year-old was officially introduced as a Miami player on Sunday and trained with his new teammates – including Sergio Busquets – for the first time on Tuesday.
Al Hilal, one of four Saudi Arabian clubs funded by the Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), wanted to sign Messi, but former Barcelona star Stoichkov believes the Argentine has proven his priority is football, not cash.
“We didn’t play for money, we played for love,” Stoichkov, who was one of Barca’s best players in the 1990s, told Stats Perform.
“That shows greatness. I didn’t care about knowing my salary or bonuses, it was more important for me to play and for people to respect me.”
“Agents take care of other things. Messi comes to compete and play and he doesn’t care about money because he loves football.”
Stoichkov, who played in MLS in the early 2000s, was not sad to see Messi reject his former club, with the Blaugrana legend suggesting the deal was never feasible.
“I knew he wasn’t coming back because of the way and the impact of what happened when he left Barcelona,” he said.
“He wanted to stay at all costs to finish his career at Barcelona, but he couldn’t.
“I didn’t believe it, even though I had the chance to talk to him, his father and his brothers. As a former Barcelona player and a partner, I always liked the best players and Messi didn’t deserve to leave like that.” [in 2021].
“A lot of people criticize him because he didn’t want to come back, but they don’t think about how he left.
“Messi did something that few people would do, he said he would not come back so that his teammates would not suffer. This shows his greatness because he could come back but the president will definitely have to take a pay cut.” players and cut additional costs to make it happen.
“Messi never wanted a teammate to experience these things. The claims that he didn’t want to come back are not true.”