Lionel Messi Reportedly Makes Move to Miami and MLS
Lionel Messi is coming to the United States, agreeing to an unprecedented deal with the MLS and Inter Miami. He will not, as many speculated, return to Barcelona. And he will not join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia. This is according to multiple reports on Wednesday.
Inter Miami is coowned by David Beckham, and last week it was reported that the MLS franchise made an offer to Messi of $54 million per season for the next four years.
Last month, Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes in the world had Messi at No. 2 behind Ronaldo. But this new deal for Messi includes a share of revenue of Apple TV+’s MLS Season Pass and a profit-sharing agreement with Adidas, a company he signed a lifetime contract with in 2017. It’s also not a coincidence that Apple announced that it is producing a documentary series featuring Messi.
Just how much both of those incentives add to his overall income is yet to be determined, but it will surely keep him near the top of Forbes’ list, or put him at the very top.
Messi did say as recently as this week that his son preferred a return to Barcelona when his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires on June 30. But Barcelona is in a cost-cutting phase imposed by La Liga, and they simply could not afford to be a serious bidder for the recent World Cup champion.
The World Cup is a huge factor in Messi joining Inter Miami. The United States is a joint host of the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico.Building an even stronger profile in North America before the World Cup means more money for the MLS, Apple, Adidas, and Messi.
Miami has been chosen as one of the World Cup host cities, along with 10 other cities in the United States. There will be three host sites in Mexico, and two in Canada.
Different than David Beckham
It is perhaps not coincidental that Messi is choosing a new home coowned by David Beckham. At the time Beckham moved to the L.A. Galaxy in 2007, he was a star of the same profile as Messi, if not quite the same player. The MLS was also nowhere close to where it is today.
The league has 29 teams in 2023. There were 12 in 2007. In 2007, the total attendance at MLS events was 3.2 million. In 2022 MLS in-game attendance broke 10 million. In 2007, the MLS was making $8 million a year for its television rights package with ESPN. The MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+ is for $250 million annually for the next 10 years.
Plus, Messi is less than a year removed from winning the World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball for being the tournament’s best overall player. Also, in 2022, he was named FIFA’s World Player of the Year.
David Beckham was the FIFA World Player of the Year six years before moving to the MLS, and with England in the World Cup, he never got beyond the quarterfinals.
A Deal Long in the Making
Back in 2018, when Inter Miami was officially announced as an expansion team in the MLS, Messi congratulated Beckham on his new venture by writing on social media, “Who knows, maybe in a few years you can give me a ring.”
Since then, the club in Miami has created connections to Barcelona, and they have a natural connection to Messi’s most recent team in France. Paris Saint-Germain is where Beckham ended his playing career in 2013. Two months ago, Beckham was in Paris to see his old club, and he was pictured with Messi during the visit.
There are also reports that Inter Miami is in talks with Gerardo “Tata” Martino about becoming the club’s next head coach. Martino coached Messi for two years at Barcelona, and helped him get to consecutive Copa America finals as the Argentina head coach.
Martino last coached in the MLS in 2018, and has said that he very much wants to return to the league. Perhaps that will be Miami, where Messi already owns property, has frequently vacationed, and now will star for a team that is currently in last place.