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Manager: Lionel Messi not joining MLS for ‘holiday’

Lionel Messi

Tata Martino, the new manager of Inter Miami, maintains that former Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets are not joining the club and Major League Soccer to take a break from so-called respectable competitions.

“When we spoke with Leo, yesterday I spoke with Sergio, we talked about arriving to have success, to compete and compete well,” Martino told reporters during his Inter Miami introductory news conference on Thursday, as shared by Cesar Hernandez of ESPN. “This happens to us even on a personal level, sometimes we associate the United States, Miami, holidays — this isn’t that. We want to compete… they are not footballers who are going to come here to not compete.”

Messi stated his desire to return to Barcelona, where he spent the majority of his professional career, for at least one season, but he decided not to wait to see if the Catalan club could resolve financial issues that essentially made registering the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner impossible.

Following Messi’s confirmation that he will join Inter Miami when his contract with PSG expires at the end of this month, Barcelona appeared to take a shot at MLS when the club stated in a statement that the 36-year-old wanted “to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subjected to in recent years.”

Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald reported on June 7 that Messi signed a contract that extends through 2025 and includes a 2026 option year. Kaufman said that the contract may be worth $125 million to $150 million, including money Messi can make by taking a portion of the revenue generated by league sponsors Apple and Adidas.

Messi is scheduled to make his Inter Miami debut on July 21 against Cruz Azul of Mexico’s Liga MX in a Leagues Cup match.

Martino mentioned how Messi’s decision to join Inter Miami provoked emotions from people like Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“I’ve read that NFL and NBA players are talking about this situation, which seems very rare,” Martino remarked. “I believe that MLS has a constant evolution and the examples are the great soccer players from the United States who are playing in Europe, and in very good teams in Europe. There is already a process that has started. [And] that the best player in the world decides to play in this league, obviously it will open up an even better panorama for that growth.”