Former Manchester United loanee Odion Ighalo has shed light on the circumstances surrounding his departure from Al-Hilal, Soccernet.ng reports.
Ighalo has revealed that the Saudi Arabia club’s interest in signing Lionel Messi played a significant role in their decision not to offer him a new contract this summer.
Having spent 18 months with the former Asian champions, Ighalo had established himself as the club’s leading goal scorer during his tenure.
His impressive performances in the league resulted in 19 goals and two assists in just 27 games for Al-Hilal during the recently concluded campaign. However, despite his contributions, the club surprisingly opted not to extend his contract.
Ighalo has now disclosed that the potential signing of Barcelona legend and 2022 World Cup winner, Lionel Messi, influenced Al-Hilal’s decision.
The Argentina captain was heavily linked with a move to the Saudi Professional League following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain, with a potential return to his boyhood club, Barcelona, also widely rumoured.
Ultimately, Messi made an unexpected move to Major League Soccer (MLS) by joining Miami.
In an interview with sports journalist Oma Akatugba, the former Manchester United striker expressed his surprise at the turn of events, stating, “I’m shocked Messi didn’t go to Saudi Arabia because it was part of the reasons my contract was not being extended [with Al-Hilal]. I thought it was a done deal.”
Ighalo further revealed the allure of the financial package offered to Messi in Saudi Arabia, stating, “The money they were offering him in Saudi [Arabia] was crazy. He was going to earn twice what Ronaldo was earning. I was shocked he didn’t go there. He chose Miami.”
While Odion Ighalo’s departure from Al-Hilal may have been influenced by the club’s pursuit of Lionel Messi, the Nigerian striker now looks ahead to new opportunities in his football career.
His successful stint with Al-Hilal, marked by his impressive goal-scoring record, serves as a testament to his abilities on the field despite his advancing age.