MIAMI (TodayNews) — Lionel Messi has completed a deal to join Major League Soccer, and after years of planning and chasing, Inter Miami has acquired a global icon.
Messi’s contract became official on Saturday, just over five weeks after he announced he would move to Inter Miami. The team will unveil him on Sunday night at their stadium in Fort Lauderdale, and the first home game of the Messi era could take place as early as Friday in the League Cup tie against Cruz Azul.
An official press conference is scheduled for Monday, while his first training session with his new club is expected on Tuesday. The club had previously announced that Messi’s deal would span 2 1/2 seasons and pay him between $50 million and $60 million a year, bringing the total contract value to between $125 million and $150 million in cash alone.
“BIENVENIDO 10,” the team tweeted on Saturday.
Welcome Messi, of course.
“We are thrilled that the greatest player in the world has chosen Inter Miami and Major League Soccer and his decision is a testament to the momentum and energy of our league and our sport in North America,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber. . “We have no doubt that Lionel will show the world that MLS can be the league of choice for the best players in the game.”
In many ways, this is an unusual marriage. Messi – still arguably the biggest star in the game – is signing with a team that finished last in the MLS Eastern Conference on Saturday. This is a club that is only in its fourth season playing in a temporary home that will only have a capacity of around 22,000 once some urgent renovations are completed, such as the installation of additional stands.
Doesn’t matter. The football royals now play for Inter Miami.
A group of South Florida fans wait outside DRV Pink Stadium, home of the Inter Miami MLS football club, hoping to see Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi on Tuesday, July 11, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Inter Miami announced plans to introduce Messi along with other new players at the July 16 event. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Messi arrived in South Florida on Tuesday after a vacation, then began the medical and paperwork process on Wednesday, and the deal was finalized on Saturday afternoon. The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or – a trophy awarded annually to the best player in the world – moves to Miami after two years at Paris Saint-Germain.
“I am very excited to start the next step in my career at Inter Miami and in the United States,” Messi said in a statement. “This is a fantastic opportunity and together we will continue to build this great project. The idea is to work together towards our goals and I’m very excited to start helping out here in my new home.”
It was widely known that Messi would leave PSG. The mystery was where he was going. Some thought Messi would eventually decide to play for Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia, following longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo to a kingdom where some clubs are now funded from his sovereign wealth fund. A return to Barcelona, the legendary franchise where he spent most of his career, was another possibility.
In the end, Miami won. An idea that co-owner David Beckham began publicly discussing in 2021 – apparently two years before the team actually started thinking about how to pull it off – has now become a reality.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the USA league to live football differently,” Messi said in June announcing his decision.
Last December, he led Argentina to the World Cup. Messi has scored over 800 goals for club and country, making him one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the sport. He scored twice in last year’s World Cup final against France, which ended 3-3 and Argentina won 4-2 on penalties.
He is a four-time Champions League winner and his 129 goals in the top club competition are behind Ronaldo’s 140. Messi has won 10 La Liga titles and two Ligue 1 championships, seven Copa del Rey and three club world championships, as well as the Copa América. and an Olympic gold medal for Argentina.
“Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said it was my dream to bring the world’s greatest players to this amazing city,” Beckham said. “Players who shared the ambition I had when I joined LA Galaxy to help grow US football and create a legacy for the next generation in the sport we love so much.
“Today, that dream has come true.”
The club had an away game in St. Louis on Saturday, but when word got out that Messi might have been on team property that morning, a couple of hundred fans gathered just hoping to catch a glimpse, not even stopped by the morning thunderstorm. Many wore Messi jerseys – some in light blue, like in Argentina, some in pink and black, like in Inter Miami. Some carried flags; one had a sign mostly in Spanish, but the words “Messi” and “GOAT” made the message clear.
This is just part of the welcome party that is just getting started.
Messi was spotted at a Publix supermarket near Fort Lauderdale – the grocery store chain is an Inter Miami sponsor – with his family earlier in the week, and the cart contained a number of kids’ picks: Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky. Enchantment. The scene went viral by the time he got to the box office.
The serial scorer obviously loves cereal too.
And now it’s time to start football. Inter Miami are planning to introduce Messi on Sunday night at an event the club is calling “The Unveil”. There are rumors that Shakira will take part, and tickets for the show, which has been waiting for several weeks, are no longer available.
Franchise hopes are now officially sky-high. Inter Miami never challenged for the title; Messi could change everything in a hurry for a team that has only won 34% of MLS matches.
“Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent,” said Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson. “What he brings on and off the field will uplift everyone around him and we are excited to have him at Inter Miami.