20221122 lionel messi
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch after the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group C match against Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Doha. Image Credit: AFP

Saudi Arabia and Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulayhi joked he is afraid Lionel Messi will ask for his departure if the Argentine forward joins the Saudi club, after an argument with him during a World Cup match last year.

Al-Bulayhi appeared to provoke the Argentina captain during Saudi Arabia’s historic 2-1 group stage victory over the eventual world champions in Qatar in November.

A source close to Messi has told Reuters he has received a formal offer to join Al-Hilal next season, though his father said the Paris St Germain forward has not “signed or agreed” a deal.

“I do not know what will happen, and I am afraid that he (Messi) says, ‘I do not want (player) number five’. I do not know if Messi will come or not, but if he comes, may God protect me,” Al-Bulayhi told SBC.

Not scared

“If he comes, God willing, I will not attend the first two days until I monitor the situation from afar so that he may forget me,” the 33-year-old defender added with a smile.

Al-Bulayhi confirmed he spoke to Messi in Arabic at the World Cup and taunted him that he would not be able to beat the Saudis even if the match lasted for a long time.

The Saudi defender added he had not been scared to face Messi having gained experience from facing Uruguay’s lethal attacking duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez at the 2018 World Cup.

“After (the) Uruguay match, I will not ever be afraid even if I face three Messis. Messi is a legend and I do not want to talk about him, as he may come. He is a legend, but in the end we are 11 against 11,” he said.