Messi spurns Barcelona and Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami in MLS

Lionel Messi is reportedly set to play for Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, a move that will see him reunite with old friends from Barcelona.

The Argentine legend had received lucrative offers to follow Cristiano Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia this summer, with Al Hilal among his suitors, while Barcelona was also interested in re-signing him.

Messi spurns Barcelona and Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami in MLS
Messi at the bench during a PSG match. Source: Getty

Messi’s decision to cross the Atlantic is somewhat of a surprise. Many believed he would follow in the footsteps of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo and sign a lucrative deal with a club in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian government reportedly prepared a deal worth around £320 million a year for him to join Cristiano Ronaldo in the Middle East.

Others thought he would rejoin Barcelona, the club where he emerged as one of the greatest players of all time.

But Messi has decided to head to Miami, a city where he already owns a property. Inter Miami is partly owned by David Beckham, one of the few footballers who can rival Messi for global fame. The move also represents a publicity coup for MLS as it continues its push to become a major player in US sports. The last time the league attracted a player of Messi’s fame was when Beckham joined Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.

Messi spurns Barcelona and Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami in MLS
Messi during a training session at PSG. Source: Getty

Inter Miami has a long-standing interest in bringing Messi to the United States and making him a face for the sport ahead of the World Cup in three years’ time. They are bottom of the Eastern Conference and have just sacked Phil Neville as manager. Javier Morales is their interim head coach.

The Athletic reported that the Argentine legend’s decision to join Inter Miami was partly influenced by commercial partners Apple and adidas. It was reported that the World Cup winner will get a share of the revenue from Apple TV+’s MLS Season Pass, while Adidas has offered him a profit-sharing agreement to strengthen their long-term relationship.

Messi, whose contract with Paris Saint-Germain officially expires at the end of June, could debut for Miami in either July or August and would have the unenviable task of lifting a last-place, frequently dysfunctional franchise to the playoffs.

Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, has scored 32 goals in 75 appearances in all competitions for French giants PSG, winning back-to-back Ligue 1 titles, following his transfer from boyhood club Barcelona in 2021.

Messi spurns Barcelona and Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami in MLS
Messi at a match for PSG. Source: Getty

According to Argentine journalist Gaston Edul, Inter Miami will also start negotiations to sign Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Luis Suarez. The idea is to build a supporting cast around Messi with many of his friends from his time at Barcelona.

Both Busquets and Alba will become free agents this summer, since they won’t renew their respective deals with the Blaugrana. The Uruguayan striker, on the other hand, is under contract at Gremio, but Inter could get him by triggering his release clause.

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