Lionel Messi Joins Inter Miami: Argentine Superstar Chooses United States for Next Chapter in His Career

by B-EMPIRE MAGAZINE
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Messi’s Parisian adventure has come to an end. A return to Barcelona seems hopeless for the superstar, and he has resisted the temptation of Saudi Arabia. Instead, the Argentine icon will soon be heading to… Florida. In an interview with Spanish media, Messi announced that he will be joining Inter Miami, a team in the North American Major League Soccer (MLS). This move shines an exceptional spotlight on the competition as it welcomes the Argentine legend.

After his stint at PSG, the 35-year-old World Cup champion had three options: a return to his hometown club, Barcelona, the lure of Saudi petrodollars that had already enticed Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, or the Major League Soccer across the Atlantic. “I have decided to go to Miami. It’s not a 100% done deal or maybe there are still some things to be done, but we have decided to continue our path there,” stated the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in his interview with Spanish newspapers, Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo.

Writing the final chapters of his illustrious career, Messi is set to do so under the sunny skies of Miami, representing a franchise owned by David Beckham and American billionaires Jorge and Jose Mas. Messi’s choice, the result of extensive negotiations led by his father Jorge, who manages his interests, comes as a surprise considering how close the Argentine appeared to be joining a Saudi club.

The kingdom was willing to go to great lengths to secure his signature, with several media outlets speculating a salary of €400 million per season. Top officials from Al-Hilal even traveled to Paris on Sunday to finalize the deal, according to sources close to the negotiations. In early May, a Saudi source involved in the discussions claimed the transfer was a “done deal.” However, Messi’s ultimate desire was to reunite with his beloved Barcelona, which he had reluctantly left in 2021 to join PSG due to the Catalan club’s financial constraints.

It was these same reasons that led to the failure of the “Return operation,” even though Jorge Messi stated on Monday that this option was his son’s preference. Barcelona’s management had to wait for La Liga to approve their economic viability plan before considering Messi’s signing. This cooled the Messi camp’s enthusiasm. Consequently, the Inter Miami option logically emerged as the frontrunner, despite Messi’s desire to stay in a top-level league in preparation for the 2024 Copa America.

Failure in the Champions League While celebrated in Argentina after winning the World Cup in Doha, the “Pulga” (Flea), who turns 36 on June 24, experienced a completely different atmosphere in Paris. He left the stage with his head held low and amidst boos from the Parc des Princes after the final home match of the season against Clermont. With Lionel Messi, PSG was expected to finally overcome their mental barriers in the Champions League. However, the club has suffered two consecutive round-of-16 eliminations, the latest against Bayern Munich in early March, leaving them with a sense of regression rather than progress. Since the World Cup, Paris has also been knocked out of the French Cup by Olympique de Marseille. Moreover, in 2023, they have set a record of 10 defeats in 27 matches across all competitions.

These poor results coincided with a decline in Messi’s performance and accuracy on the field. He took fewer shots, had a lower shot accuracy, and touched the ball less, particularly in the penalty area. Prior to the World Cup, Messi had accumulated 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 matches. Since then, he has scored 9 goals and provided 6 assists in 22 matches.

In Paris, the integration of the superstar never seemed to fully take hold, despite a few memorable moments, such as his goal against Manchester City in the fall of 2021 or a last-second free kick against Lille (4-3) on February 19, a night where he didn’t show much else but secured the championship victory, a fitting summary of his intermittent genius in Paris. He also scored the title-winning goal against Strasbourg (1-1).

Furthermore, his image was tarnished by his unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia, which led to a one-week suspension imposed by PSG’s management and a public apology. The relationship with the fans, already strained after the debacle against Real Madrid in the Champions League during his first season in Paris, was definitively severed.

To complete Leo’s transfer, Inter Miami benefited from the revenue generated by the agreement between MLS and Apple, which offers an Apple TV+ subscription to follow the American league, the MLS Season Pass. This ten-year agreement was signed for $2.5 billion. On Tuesday, Apple TV+ announced the upcoming release of a four-part documentary series chronicling Messi’s five World Cups.

“The League has been very creative. Everything is on the table,” said a source within the MLS, whose offer includes contributions from Apple and Adidas, its two biggest commercial partners. Adidas, Messi’s lifelong sponsor and an MLS partner since its inception in 1996, is reportedly proposing a profit-sharing agreement based on the Argentine’s involvement in the MLS.

Messi’s contract would also include an option for him to buy shares in an MLS franchise at the end of his career in the North American league. This process is similar to the one Beckham went through, who also played for PSG, to acquire Inter Miami after his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy expired. For the MLS, which has shifted its development focus to bolstering young talent rather than relying on aging stars as it did in its early years, Messi’s arrival is an unparalleled advertisement. “I think of him as someone who breaks so many barriers that he can be more important than any athlete from any sport who has ever played here in the United States,” stated Don Garber, MLS commissioner. Messi’s presence, who already owns a residence in Miami, would undoubtedly enhance the promotion of the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

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