Lionel Messi plans to open theme park based on himself in China

Billed as 'the world's finest theme park' by its backers, who claim it will offer, 'the most cutting-edge technology, enabling visitors to immerse themselves in all things Messi'

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The Independent Online

Not content with being perhaps the best footballer of all time, Lionel Messi is now taking on Disney by opening his own theme park in China.

The Messi Experience Park, set to open its doors in early 2019, will have more than 20 attractions based around the Barcelona superstar. 

The park will use virtual and augmented reality to re-run the highlights of his career and take people through training sessions with a VR Messi.

The new attraction is planned by a consortium of Chinese firms and will be developed with the help of the footballer’s image rights company, Leo Messi Management, and Spanish production company Mediapro.

The group has billed the new attraction as “the world's finest theme park” and says it will offer: “the most cutting-edge technology, enabling visitors to immerse themselves in all things Messi by combining the latest-generation attractions with the very best advances in content and multimedia attractions.”

The park will “immerse visitors in Messi's universe, combining the latest attractions with spaces to take part in the top sport”, the companies said in a statement.

Launching the venture during a trip to China, Messi said he hoped it would inspire a new generation of footballers in the country.

He told reporters: “I hope to provide them the experience they never had before and to inspire them to pick up the sport early on. Hopefully, they will feel that I am around when visiting the park.”

Mediapro will run the theme park with Chinese broadcaster Phoenix Group.

It will feature 46,000 sq metres of indoor facilities, as well as 12,000 sq metres of “garden game areas” and 25,000 sq metres of public space.

Messi, who has been crowned the world’s best footballer a record five times, will be hoping his latest venture adds to his huge fortune built up from a string of other commercial deals and a multi-million pound salary.

The Argentine was the second-highest paid sportsperson in the world last year, banking $81.4m (£63m), according to Forbes. That amount left him just behind Real Madrid rival Christiano Ronaldo, who took home $88m.