Lionel Messi has signed a $20 million deal with Socios to become the fan token site’s global brand ambassador, according to a report from Reuters. Messi, who plays for the Paris-Saint Germain soccer club and captains Argentina’s national team, will promote the exchange for the next three years.
A source close to the situation told Reuters that the transaction will not involve cryptocurrency. When Messi transferred from Barcelona to the Paris-Saint Germain club last August, ESPN says he received a “large number” of fan tokens from Socios as a part of his signing-on fee.
Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that most often represent different sports teams, and enable fans to have input on small decisions within their teams’ communities like squad numbers and celebration songs. Socios hosts fan tokens for a number of different teams across soccer, football, hockey, basketball, and more.
“Fans deserve to be recognized for their support,” Messi said in a statement. “I’m proud to join Socios.com’s mission to create a more connected and rewarding future for fans around the world.”
More athletes and sports teams are crossing the field into crypto, with some football players, like Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers, taking all or part of their salary in crypto. The NFL has also given a nod of approval to any teams that want to promote blockchain companies (as long as they’re not promoting specific cryptocurrencies).
The intersection of sports and crypto hasn’t come without controversy, however. In December, the UK banned two ads promoting the Arsenal FC fan token, citing it didn’t properly lay out the risks that come with purchasing the cryptocurrency. Earlier this month, a report from Off the Pitch accused Socios of failing to make promised cryptocurrency payments to advisors and consultants on time. It published messages that it says were sent by Socios CEO Alexandre Dreyfus about not giving them “free money” to protect the investors who bought into chiliZ, the cryptocurrency he also controls. Dreyfus refutes this claim, saying that “Just like other currencies and cryptocurrencies, any change in the price of CHZ is predominantly driven by prevailing market conditions. With such a significant market capitalisation of CHZ, any reward structure for eligible employees has negligible impact on its price.”