The arrival of Messi, the most famous soccer player in the world, is a major milestone in Major League Soccer (MLS), especially from a commercial point of view. On an athletic level, the dribbler himself takes a few steps back.
Messi revealed, in an interview with the Spanish newspapers Sport and Mundo Deportivo, “I decided to go to Miami.” The football star said the deal was not finalized yet, but “this is the path we choose.”
So it was not a return to the financial uncertainty of Barcelona, the club that left him in tears for PSG in 2021. According to Messi, it never came from a concrete offer. Hundreds of millions from Saudi Arabia, a country that already pays him handsomely as a billboard for the tourism sector, couldn’t entice him either.
Messi recently announced his desire to leave Paris, where he has been regularly receiving scorn from fans. With his move to the US, he says he is choosing a quieter life with his family.
The fact that he can’t show up anywhere in Miami became apparent when he was nearly run over two years ago when he visited a friendly owner’s restaurant. He still feels comfortable in the city. Messi has a house there, a penthouse in one of the most expensive residential buildings. In the city with strong Latin American influences, most residents speak Spanish.
An unprecedented deal
The deal with Messi is unprecedented by MLS standards. According to US media, he will be participating in the proceeds of Apple TV, the streaming service that has been bringing MLS matches exclusively to subscribers since this season. In addition, he will have a stake in the club and is one of the exceptional players for whom the salary cap could be broken.
The sporty side is less attractive to Messi. Compared to European giants such as Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Miami is a baby who has just learned to walk. The club was founded by Beckham and real estate billionaire Jorge Mas and made its MLS debut in 2020. Miami has made the playoffs only once in the past three seasons. Once again, Miami is at the bottom of the Eastern Division. It cost coach Phil Neville his job last week. Former Argentina coach Tata Martino will be the favorite to succeed him.
Messi moves to the league where young footballers, mostly from Latin America, star. On a technical and tactical level, Major League Soccer still lags behind European competitions, but there is no bulge anymore.
It is precisely the Messi who walks a lot who will need a balanced selection support. Former Feyenoord player Nick Marsman is currently a backup goalkeeper at Miami. The number of stars that can be attracted is restricted by the salary cap.
In the footsteps of Beckham
Messi is following in the footsteps of Beckham, who signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and gave American football a huge boost. In his contract with the league, he included that he could one day start his own club. I became Miami. In 2018, Beckham got his license.
Messi was one of the prominent figures who congratulated him via video message. “Who knows, you’ll be calling me in a few years,” the Argentine joked.
Controversy over the location of the new stadium hampered the start of Inter Miami. Just last year, the club received permission to build a new home in the city: the multifunctional Freedom Park, with a capacity of 25,000 spectators, will open in 2025.
The question is whether Messi will continue his experience in the pink Inter Miami jersey. This season they will play their home games at Drive Pink Stadium. The simple structure sits next to a freeway near Fort Lauderdale, an hour’s drive from charming Miami Beach. It is a temporary stadium with four separate stands, hastily constructed in the lead-up to the first season. For Messi, the decor will take some getting used to.
MLS hopes to generate more interest in the four-time Champions League winner, as his predecessor did with Pele in the 1970s and later with Beckham and, to a lesser extent, star players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andrea Pirlo. “We are pleased that Messi wants to come to the MLS this summer,” the league said. “We look forward to welcoming one of the greatest footballers of all time.”
Domestically, MLS has yet to prioritize the English Premier League and Mexico’s Liga MX, both of which attract more viewers. In any case, football in America will be in the spotlight in the coming years: next year the Copa America will be held in the United States, followed two years later by the World Cup, which will be organized together with Mexico and Canada.
Messi may debut with Miami in July. With the arrival of the Argentine, the American public can see firsthand how the world champion works.
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