As the European soccer season heads for the finish line, this weekend offers plenty of intrigue.
The fate of Lionel Messi, the status of Leeds United and the blues of Chelsea’s high-profile American ownership, not to mention the team’s fans and the Championship playoffs, will all make headlines.
The Messi Soap Opera
Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain decided to kiss and make up. That doesn’t mean he’ll be hanging around Paris after the season ends.
The Argentine soccer star is back in his team’s starting lineup on Saturday against Corsican team Ajaccio. The club suspended him for two weeks for making an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia, where he was fulfilling his sponsorship contract with the kingdom as a brand ambassador.
❗️ Barça target Lionel Messi has apologized to his PSG teammates. 🎥 pic.twitter.com/bqAGHNFO2X
— barcacentre (@barcacentre) May 5, 2023
Messi joined the French club in the summer of 2021 upon ending his long run with Barcelona after that club announced there was no room within LaLiga’s salary limits to sign him. His two-year contract worth €60 million with the French club ends in late June.
The 35-year-old, seven-time FIFA player of the year, is playing it coy about his future. Barcelona, Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal and MLS’s Inter Miami have been on the list of speculated destinations for Messi, who ranked third among the world’s highest-paid soccer players in 2022, earning $110 million.
Live at Leeds? Or Dead at Leeds?
The battle at the bottom of the Premier League is getting hotter and Leeds United is dangerously close to being relegated at the end of this season. Leeds will squared off with Newcastle United on Saturday in a critical game for both teams with millions of pounds on the line.
The Whites’ broadcasting revenues fell from $165 million (£133 milion) in the 2020-21 season to $144 million (£116 million) in 2021-22 because they finished lower in the standings, but if Leeds is relegated, next year they’ll receive only a 55% share of those revenues (approximately $79.2 milion), before dropping to 45% the second year and 20% in year three.
On the other hand, the Magpies cannot lose either, as they need to stay at the top to secure their ticket to the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
In the end, the teams finished in 2-2 tie, giving both a chance to maintain their position over the final weeks.
Chelsea Mourning, Nottingham’s Last Hurrah
Todd Boehly’s Chelsea is not doing well. Since the takeover 12 months ago, Boehly has fired two coaches and spent over $625 million (£500 million) on players who have yet to show their value on the pitch. The Blues are sitting in 11th place in the table and will not be playing in the Champions League for the first time in twenty years. Participating in the tournament is not only a matter of prestige but also means millions of dollars in broadcast revenues for the teams.
Chelsea took on Greek billionaire Evangelos Marinakis’ Nottingham Forest, another club close to the bottom of the table but coming on strong after a win over Southampton on Monday. Forest needed to win since the Reds have to face league leader Arsenal and John Textor’s Crystal Palace in the final two games.
The match also ended in a 2-2 draw, leaving both with more work to do down the stretch.
Championship Playoff: The Richest Game in Football
Every season three teams from the Championship (the division below EPL) get promoted to the Premier League. While the top two finishers get automatic promotion, the third spot is determined with a mini-playoff tournament between the teams that finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth. This year, Luton Town, Middlesbrough, Coventry City and Sunderland secured the coveted spots.
The team that wins the playoff will see about $120 million in broadcast money next year, plus another $66 to $80 million in parachute payments if it gets relegated again the following season. If the club can stay in the EPL for more than one season, payments grow from there.
The first leg of the semi-finals will take place this weekend, and the final to determine the winner will be played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 27th.
(This story was updated to include the results of Leeds’ and Chelsea’s matches.)