Lionel Messi, one of the greatest men’s soccer players of all time, was set to finish his contract with French Club PSG after the 2022-2023 season. Having just won the Argentinian national team a World Cup, Messi was a hot commodity and held major offers from three clubs: FC Barcelona, Al-Hilal SFC, and Inter Miami. Read on to learn how and why the Argentinian superstar ultimately chose to sign with the MLS team.
Departure from PSG
After leaving FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi became a free agent and signed a two-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The contract lasted until June 2023 and came with an optional one-year extension. After two successful seasons with the French club, rumors began to spread about Messi leaving PSG and rejoining Barcelona, his former club home of 20 years. Messi himself even declared that if he were to continue playing for a European football team, it would be for only Barcelona.
In early June 2023, the Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal SC reportedly made Messi an enormous offer of $400 million a year to play for their club. Al-Hilal offered Messi even more money than was offered to Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al Nassr in the same league. A few days after receiving their offer, Messi asked the Saudi Arabian club to delay their offer until 2024 so that he could consider a single-season return to Barcelona. In the final days of the deal, Al-Hilal refused Messi’s delay request and instead allegedly offered a deal worth over $1.5 billion in total.
Inter Miami Offer
Despite Al-Hilal’s increasingly large offer and negotiations with Barcelona, Lionel Messi announced on June 7, 2023, that he would sign with the MLS club Inter Miami. In addition to an undisclosed salary, Messi’s deal with the South Floridian club reportedly included a cut of the revenue from Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass, as well as future options for part-ownership of the club after retirement. In addition to the positive monetary reasons offered by MLS and Inter Miami, Messi also declared that he did not want to wait or be responsible for FC Barcelona’s renegotiation of its payroll.
Effect on US Soccer
One of the most discussed elements of Lionel Messi’s deal with Inter Miami is its effect on the popularity of the MLS and US soccer in general. In 2007, a decade after its founding, the American professional soccer league acquired international legend David Beckham as a player and saw the league slowly double in team number and have its expansion fees increase from $10 million to over $500 million. Many predict that Messi’s move, especially fresh off his FIFA World Cup win, will have a similar effect on increased popularity, traffic, and money flow to Inter Miami and American soccer as a whole.
Within 24 hours of Messi’s Inter Miami announcement, ticket prices for MLS games skyrocketed. The average ticket for Messi’s first Inter Miami game, a Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul, saw a 1,034% increase from $29 to over $300. Later matchups with Inter Miami also saw ticket price increases ranging from 420% to almost 1,300%. Similarly, Inter Miami and MLS social media accounts saw a drastic increase in followers, with Inter Miami’s Instagram page going from one million to more than five millions followers within a 24-hour period.