June 8 – In a move that took much of the football world by surprise, Lionel Messi has turned his back on Saudi Arabia and is instead heading to the MLS and Inter Miami.
After months of speculation, the 35-year-old Argentine World Cup winner finally revealed his decision to join a club that has been led by another global icon, David Beckham, since its inception but has yet to make any real impact on the field and recently sacked coach Phil Neville.
It was widely believed that Messi would join the growing trend of ageing superstars moving to Saudi Arabia for one final swansong. He was expected to choose Al-Hilal and follow in the footsteps of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo to a nation where a number of clubs are funded by the state’s sovereign wealth fund.
Going back to Barcelona, the boyhood club where he spent most of his career, was another possibility. Instead he is heading to Florida. Messi already owns a house in Miami.
Messi said Wednesday that some final details still need to be worked out, but that he has made the call to “continue my path” in Miami “to live football in another way”.
“If Barcelona didn’t work out, I wanted to leave Europe, get out of the spotlight and think more about my family. If it had been a question of money, I would have gone to Arabia or elsewhere where they offered me a lot of money.”
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner makes his move after two years with Paris Saint-Germain and is a massive coup for the sport in the United States. He’s still an enormous draw everywhere on the globe and could change Inter Miami’s fortunes overnight in a city dominated by the USA’s four main pro sports.
“We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer,” read a statement from MLS. “Although work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league.”
Inter Miami added 1 million Instagram followers Wednesday as word spread that the legendary soccer player could join the squad — doubling the team’s audience on the platform in one day.
US media reports say Messi will receive a percentage of all new subscriptions to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The streaming service in the first year of 10-year deal worth $2.5 billion. There were also reports that Messi’s deal could include profit-sharing from Adidas, who supply kit to every MLS team.
Messi could make his debut as early as July 21 against Cruz Azul in the new Leagues Cup competition played between all the clubs in the MLS and Mexico’s LaLiga.
Barcelona released a statement saying Jorge Messi, the player’s father, told the club president Joan Laporta of the decision to go to Miami and wished him well.
“President Laporta understood and respected Messi’s decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years,” the statement said.
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