Stoichkov speculates on why Messi snubbed Saudi Arabia
Barcelona legend Hristo Stoichkov believes Lionel Messi snubbed a move to Saudi Arabia because "he loves football" and does not care about money.
Lionel Messi showed "he doesn't care about money" by turning down a hugely lucrative offer from Al Hilal to sign for Inter Miami, according to 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 unveiled as a Miami player on Sunday, and trained with his new team-mates – including Sergio Busquets – for the first time on Tuesday.
Al Hilal, one of the four Saudi Arabian clubs bankrolled by the Gulf state's Public Investment Fund (PIF), wanted to sign Messi, but former Barcelona star Stoichkov thinks the Argentine proved his priority is football, not cash.
"We didn't play for money, we played for love," Stoichkov, who was one of Barca's greatest players in the 1990s, told Stats Perform.
"This shows greatness. It didn't matter to me to know my salary or the bonuses, for me it was more important to play and that people value me"The agents take care of the other things. Messi comes to compete and play and he doesn't care about money because he loves football."
Messi confirmed he could have returned to Barcelona, though ultimately decided against the move as the Catalan giant continues to tussle with financial difficulties.
Stoichkov, who played in MLS in the early 2000s, was not sad to see Messi turn down his former club, with the Blaugrana legend suggesting a deal was never feasible
"I knew that he was not going to return 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 opportunity to talk with him, with his father and his brothers. I, as a former Barcelona player and partner, have always liked having the best players and Messi did not deserve that exit [in 2021]
"Many people criticise him because he did not want to return, but they do not think about how he left.
"Messi has done something that few people would do, say that he was not going to return so that his team-mates do not suffer. This shows his greatness, because he could return but surely the president was going to have to lower the salaries of the players and cut other costs for this to happen.
"Messi never wanted a team-mate to experience those things. The claims that he did not want to return are not true."