Soccer star Lionel Messi’s signing-on fee at Paris Saint-Germain includes some of the French club’s cryptocurrency fan tokens, in the latest big-name endorsement of new digital assets.
The Argentine, 34, left Spanish side Barcelona and signed a two-year contract with Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), with an option for a third year, on Tuesday.
Confirming an exclusive Reuters report, PSG said on Thursday the tokens were included in his “welcome package,” which media reports have estimated at 25 to 30 million euros (between $36-million and $44-million). The club did not disclose the proportion of tokens in the package, but said the amount was “significant.”
Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that allow holders to vote on mostly minor decisions related to their clubs. Among clubs to launch tokens this year are English Premier League champions Manchester City and Italy’s AC Milan. Mr. Messi’s former club Barcelona launched one last year.
The tokens are increasingly seen by clubs as a source of new revenue and Socios.com, which provides the tokens for PSG and other top clubs, says tokens have generated nearly US$200-million for its partner clubs in 2021, with PSG already seeing revenue from the Messi deal.
As with bitcoin and other digital currencies, fan tokens can be traded on exchanges. They also share in common with other cryptocurrencies a tendency for wild price swings, leading some regulators to issue warnings to investors about digital assets.
Still, several high-profile business and entertainment figures have backed crypto assets, with Tesla Inc. boss Elon Musk, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and rapper Jay-Z among those to have shown support for bitcoin.
PSG said there had been a high volume of trading in its fan tokens after reports that Mr. Messi was set to join the club.
Trading volumes exceeded US$1.2-billion in the days preceding the arrival of the six-times winner of the Ballon d’Or world’s best soccer player award, it said.
“We have been able to engage with a new global audience, creating a significant digital revenue stream,” said Marc Armstrong, PSG’s chief partnerships officer.
The price of PSG’s fan token rallied this week on rumours of the Messi deal, with new sales generating around 30 million euros and PSG taking an unspecified majority of that amount – at least 15 million euros, a source with knowledge of the matter said. PSG declined to comment.
Fan tokens’ price moves can have little connection to on-field performance or results.
PSG’s token, which has a market capitalization of about US$52-million, soared over 130 per cent in just five days amid speculation over Mr. Messi’s arrival to an all-time high of over US$60 on Tuesday. They were last down 10 per cent at about US$40, according to the CoinMarketCap website.
Alexandre Dreyfus, the chief executive officer of Socios.com, said PSG was benefiting from its token and other clubs could imitate its deal with Mr. Messi.
“I believe this could be the start of a new trend as fan tokens and Socios.com play an increasingly prominent role across sport at the very highest level,” he said.
PSG has hoovered up domestic titles since its deep-pocketed owners, Qatar Sports Investment, took over in 2011. But they have never won Europe’s prestigious and lucrative Champions League. Mr. Messi has won it four times, most recently in 2015.
The arrival of Barcelona’s record scorer, with 672 goals, will boost PSG’s ambitions and is expected to increase revenues from commercial deals and merchandise sales.
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