The financial package for Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi’s much-anticipated move to Paris Saint-Germain includes payment in crypto fan tokens, sources claim, providing another big-name endorsement for new digital assets.
Lionel Messi’s transfer to PSG included a payment in cryptocurrency fan tokens, the club confirmed on Thursday. 34-year-old Messi left Spanish club Barcelona and signed Tuesday a two-year contract with PSG with an option for a third year.
PSG said in a statement the tokens included in his “welcome package” or signing-on fee had been provided by Socios.com, which is the club’s fan token provider. The club did not state what percentage of the deal comprised the tokens but said he had received a “large number.” It also has not disclosed the overall financial package.
Messi has won the European Golden Shoe award for top scorer and FIFA’s player of the year award six times each and will reportedly net an annual salary of $41 million (plus bonuses) in addition to a $30-million signing bonus at PSG, reports claim. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has said at a press conference this week that, should the precise figures for the deal be made public, people would be “shocked, honestly, at the numbers we have.”
PSG said there had been a high volume of trading of its fan tokens after reports of Messi’s move to the club emerged. Blockchain firm Chiliz, which operates the sports token platform Socios on which $PSG fan tokens are issued, has today revealed that $PSG trading volumes surged to over $1.2 billion in the days preceding the player’s move.
According to the CoinMarketCap, PSG’s token, which has a market capitalization of about $52 million, soared over 130% in just five days amid speculation over Messi’s arrival to an all-time high of over $60 on Tuesday.
Fan tokens are a class of cryptocurrency that allows holders to vote on mostly minor decisions related to their clubs. They continue to be popular in global sports, with major Turkish multi-sport club Fenerbahçe S.K. completing an initial presale of 500,000 tokens on Ethereum this week, netting the club $1.75 million in 30 seconds. Among the clubs to launch tokens this year are English Premier League champions Manchester City and Italy’s AC Milan.
Like Bitcoin and other digital currencies, fan tokens are being traded on exchanges. Similar to other cryptocurrencies, they also tend towards wild price swings, leading some regulators to issue warnings to investors about digital assets.
PSG has been involved in crypto since 2018 through its partnership with the Socios blockchain platform, which also counts Messi’s former club FC Barcelona as a partner alongside a host of other international, high-profile clubs that include Atlético de Madrid, Juventus, Manchester City, and many others. The fan tokens’ price moves can have little connection to on-field performance or results. Flash sales for fan tokens are undeniably lucrative for the clubs involved and became even more prevalent during the pandemic-induced lockdowns last year as a way to enhance clubs’ digital presence, boost revenue and maintain fan engagement. Yet critics of the model have argued that the voting rights associated with token ownership offer fans little more than a cosmetic say in clubs’ operations and represent a gratuitous monetization of fan engagement.