Playing Lionel Messi and Argentina Will Cost You $5 Million a Game

All told, there were around a dozen offers for officials at Argentina’s national soccer federation to contemplate. They came, largely, from the game’s commercially lucrative emerging markets: the United States, China, Australia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates. The only outlier, really, was an unlikely bid from Bangladesh.

Each suitor wanted the same thing — the chance to host Lionel Messi and Argentina in one of two designated windows for friendly matches this summer — but all had their own motivation. Some were inspired by the sporting prestige of gracing the same field as the World Cup champions. For others, the potential benefits strayed into the political.

They were all, though, prepared to pay for the privilege. Each offer promised the A.F.A., Argentina’s soccer federation, not just a slice of ticket sales, television rights and commercial revenue from the games, but an eye-watering appearance fee, too.

Five months since it won the World Cup in Qatar, Argentina has become the most in-demand, and possibly the most expensive, opponent in international soccer. The going rate for a single game with the world champion has climbed so high that $5 million is now just the starting point, according to officials with knowledge of the discussions.

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