The World Cup star has decided to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF after leaving Paris Saint-Germain Lionel Messi celebrates after Argentina scored a goal in a World Cup match last December in Qatar. © Getty Images / Clive Brunskill
Argentinian soccer legend Lionel Messi has opted to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in the US, Inter Miami CF, rather than take a blockbuster deal to play next season in Saudi Arabia or return to his former European team, FC Barcelona.
“I made the decision that I’m going to go to Miami,” Messi said on Wednesday in a joint interview with Mundo Deportivo and Sport. “I still haven’t closed it 100%. I’m missing some things, but we decided to continue on the path.”
The decision comes after media reports last month suggested it was a “done deal” that Messi would play for an unidentified club in Saudi Arabia under a contract valued at more than $650 million. His contract with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) is set to expire on June 30.
Messi had hoped to return to his former team, FC Barcelona, where he won ten La Liga titles, but the club’s financial troubles were a stumbling block. “If the Barcelona thing didn’t work out, I wanted to leave Europe, get out of the spotlight and think more of my family,” Messi said in Wednesday’s interview.
The surprising landing spot not only brings one of the sport’s biggest stars to a US circuit with less prestige than Europe’s top leagues, but also to one of the newest MLS teams. Inter Miami was formed in 2018 and began playing in the 2020 season. Beckham received an option to purchase an expansion team for $25 million when he joined the league as a player with the LA Galaxy in 2007.
Like Beckham, Messi will gain a stake in the league’s future by agreeing to play in the US. His proposed contract reportedly includes an option to become a co-owner of Inter Miami, as well as a cut of revenue from apparel sales and the league’s streaming service on Apple TV. The three-year deal would give him options to leave after each season, exercisable in June, or renew automatically.
Messi said that, given the complications surrounding a possible return to Barcelona, he didn’t want to wait around and lose control of his future, as when he learned in August 2021 that the club wasn’t going to be able to re-sign him. He didn’t seriously consider other opportunities to play again in Europe.
“I had offers from other European teams, but I didn’t even evaluate them because my idea was to go to Barcelona, and if Barcelona didn’t work out, analyzing it, then leaving European football,” Messi said. After achieving his dream of leading Argentina to the World Cup championship in December, he was open to playing in the MLS, “enjoying the day-to-day much more, but with the same responsibility of wanting to win and always doing things well, but with more peace of mind.”
Messi is the only player ever to have won the World Cup Golden Ball, as the tourney’s most valuable player, twice, and he has made a record 19 appearances as a World Cup team captain. He has won the Ballon d’Or, recognizing the sport’s top player, a record seven times.