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Messi joins crypto craze, Paris St Germain signing fee includes fan tokens

Published: Updated:

Soccer star Lionel Messi’s signing on fee at Paris St Germain includes some of the French club’s cryptocurrency fan tokens, in the latest big name endorsement for new digital assets.

The Argentine, 34, left Spanish side Barcelona and signed a two-year contract with Paris St Germain (PSG), with an option for a third year, on Tuesday.

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Confirming an exclusive Reuters report, PSG said on Thursday the tokens were included in his “welcome package,” which media reports have estimated at 25-30 million euros ($29-35 million). The club did not disclose the proportion of tokens in the package, but said Messi had received a “large number.”

Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that allow holders to vote on mostly minor decisions related to their clubs. Among the clubs to launch tokens this year are English Premier League champions Manchester City and Italy’s AC Milan. Messi’s former club Barcelona launched one last year.

Like 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 boss Elon Musk, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and rapper Jay-Z among those to have shown support for bitcoin.

PSG said there had been high volume of trading in its fan tokens, which are provided by Socios.com, after reports of Messi’s move to the club emerged.

Trading volumes exceeded $1.2 billion in the days preceding the move, 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.

Alexandre Dreyfus, the CEO of Socios.com which provides the platform for several fan tokens, said PSG was benefitting from its token and other clubs could imitate its deal with 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.

Fan tokens’ price moves can have little connection to on-field performance or results.

PSG’s token, which has a market capitalization of about $52 million, soared over 130 percent in just five days amid speculation over Messi’s arrival to an all-time high of over $60 on Tuesday. They were last down 10 percent at about $40, according to the CoinMarketCap website.

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