Lionel Messi is coming to America
to play football.
I know it’s wrong, but it’s true: The most decorated player in sports history is taking his talents to South Beach, agreeing to a multi-year contract. Inter Miami MLS Messi also confirmed it.
“I decided I was going to go to Miami,” Messi said in Spanish A brief video posted by Diario Sport on Wednesday, a Spanish sports daily. “I am not 100% finalized yet. We are missing some things. But we have decided to continue on this path.
It’s a path that could prove transformative for MLS, which is already the fastest-growing top-tier soccer league in the world.
Jorge Mas, Inter Miami’s CEO and managing owner, teased the announcement by posting a stylish picture of Messi’s number-10 Inter Miami jersey. on his social media account The league issued a two-sentence statement with a cautious optimism.
“We are delighted that Lionel Messi has stated his intention to join Inter Miami CF and Major League Soccer this summer,” it said. “While work remains to be done to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest football players of all time to our league.”
MLS Since David Beckham’s arrival in 2007, it has doubled from 12 to 30 teams and expansion fees have gone from $10 million to half a billion dollars over that span. Last year MLS had the sixth-highest average attendance of any soccer league on the planet, and with the World Cup returning to North America in three years, the sport will be the first to break through the crowded sports landscape in the United States.
Messi will supercharge that drive.
Seven-time World Player of the Year Messi, who will turn 36 later this month and led Argentina to its first World Cup title in 36 years last fall, is missing his resume. In 17 seasons with Barcelona, he won 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns, while leading Europe’s top leagues in goalscoring six times. He has been in France for the past two years, winning two league championships with Paris Saint-Germain and scoring 806 goals for club and country, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo of all time.
Barcelona have failed to lure Messi back for an encore, with club president Joan Laborta saying the player’s decision was announced on Monday. The team on Wednesday released a statement that appeared to be disparaging of MLS, saying it “respects Messi’s decision to compete in a league with fewer demands, more attention and away from the pressure he has experienced in recent years.”
The player, who two years ago spent $7.2 million to buy the entire ninth floor of a luxury condo tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., seemed to back that sentiment, telling Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo that he wanted to “get out of Europe. Get out of the spotlight and be more about my family.” Think about it.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to America’s League to live football in another way and enjoy it more day by day,” he added.
A league with a salary cap, the deep-pocketed Saudi Pro League, the Qatari owners of Paris Saint-Germain and Deloitte are surprisingly ahead of Barcelona, the world’s seventh-richest club. It required a lot of creativity and collaboration from MLS and two of the league’s primary partners, Apple and Adidas.
The financial details of Messi’s Inter Miami deal were not disclosed, but he reportedly earned a base salary of $40 million per season over his two years with PSG and $400 million a year to play in Saudi Arabia.
The annual payroll for MLS teams is $5.21 million. for that The whole team. Messi would have earned that much in less than a week in Riyadh.
But MLS allows teams to sign up to three designated players for an unlimited salary, only a portion of which applies to the cap. That clause was adopted in 2007, allowing the Galaxy to sign Beckham for $6.5 million per season.
The league sweetened that offer by including a clause that allowed Beckham to buy the MLS expansion franchise for $25 million, which he accepted when he joined the franchise team in Miami in 2013. With Messi’s signing, Beckham is changing the course of MLS for the second time. But with the expansion fee now going to $500 million, the league had to find another way to finance the deal.
So MLS looked to its partners, who, according to league sources, are not authorized to publicly discuss knowledge of the negotiations. Apple, the league’s kit sponsor Adidas, which has worked with Messi since 2006, will help write the deal for the first season of a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to carry league games on its Apple TV streaming platform. International subscriptions to its MLS Season Pass package are expected to benefit greatly from the signing with Apple, which announced Tuesday it will air a four-part documentary series about Messi’s World Cup triumph last fall.
But it’s unlikely that anyone will benefit from Messi’s decision more than MLS, which is getting a priceless boost in both attention and prestige.
The financial impact of the deal is already being felt in some corners of the league, even if it’s not yet finalized: the asking price for tickets to Inter Miami’s Sept. 3 game with LAFC, as Messi looks to make his MLS debut in July. BMO Stadium topped $4,700 on the secondary market Wednesday afternoon.