Lionel Messi chooses Inter Miami over Barca and Saudi Arabia, will sign with MLS this summer

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2022/09/27: Argentina's Lionel Messi (10) sits on a bench during a friendly soccer match against Jamaica at Red Bull Arena.  Argentina won 3 - 0. Friendly game played in preparation for the World Cup to be held in Qatar in November 2022. Three intruders were apprehended by security personnel after invading the pitch during the game trying to intrude reach the Argentinian Lionel Messi.  (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has played many games in the United States over the years. Now he’s coming to MLS. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In a monumental move that could alter the course of Major League Soccer, Lionel Messi has decided to sign with Inter Miami, according to several reports Wednesday.

Neither Messi nor Miami have announced a decision or deal details, but after two days of momentum and years of chasing, MLS appear to have won the race to sign the world’s greatest player ahead of Barcelona and Barcelona. ‘Saudi Arabia.

The deal likely includes and would have included commercial deals with Apple and Adidas, two key MLS partners. It could also give Messi an option to buy a minority stake in the club.

Messi, whose contract with Paris Saint-Germain officially expires at the end of June, could make his Miami debut in July or August.

Messi, for two decades, was a one-club player. He dazzled at Barcelona and became synonymous with his image and success in the 21st century, which included four Champions League crowns and 10 La Liga titles. He left, sadly and reluctantly, in 2021 amid a financial crisis at the Spanish club. He went to PSG, but the two teams decided this spring to end this marriage of convenience after two disappointing seasons.

So Messi became a free agent and apparently had three options: a lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia (about $400m a year), a creative but less lucrative offer from Inter Miami, and a non-existent offer from Barcelona.

Many reports said that, in a perfect world, he would have returned to Barca. Jorge Messi, his father and agent, said on Monday that ‘Leo wants to return to Barca’. But the club’s ongoing financial problems, coupled with spending restrictions imposed by La Liga, prevented a meeting.

Barca, according to reports, never actually extended a firm offer with guarantees to Messi’s camp because they couldn’t. Countless Spanish officials had raised the possibility that Barca could sell several players to make room for Messi under the spending caps; but the club were essentially asking Messi to wait until later in the summer for an option that may or may not have materialized.

So it was Miami, where Messi owns property and frequently vacations, versus Saudi Arabia, whose government has paid him millions of dollars to promote tourism.

Messi had said he would like to play in the United States one day, and at various stages over the past 12 months, some in Miami have become convinced that the day will come this summer. MLS commissioner Don Garber mentioned in March that the league could “think outside the box” to structure a deal that Messi has won in South Florida. There was talk of equity stakes and help from Apple or Adidas.

Then there was the Saudi offer and the highest annual salary in the sport’s history, as well as the opportunity to renew a legendary rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed with Al Hilal rivals Al Nassr, last winter.

But Messi chose MLS and Miami.

His move to the United States will likely end his European adventure and dominance of elite club football. MLS, for all its growth, sits outside the sport’s Eurocentric spotlight, and well below Spain or France in any ranking of the world’s top domestic competitions.

Inter Miami, meanwhile, currently sit in last place in the MLS Eastern Conference, with an interim manager after Phil Neville was sacked last week.

The adventure in the United States, however, should be less taxing and could allow Messi to prolong his illustrious career. He is expected to lead Argentina to the 2024 Copa America, which will be played in the United States. He could still aim for the 2026 World Cup, which will also be co-hosted by the United States.

Leave a Comment