Lionel Messi announces his move to the MLS, rejecting Barcelona: “I decided that I’m going to go to Miami,”

The 35-year-old legend made the announcement in a joint interview with Mundo Deportivo and Sport.

The Lionel Messi contest seems to have ended. Inter Miami of Major League Soccer is expected to sign the most sought-after free agent in soccer history. The choice puts an end to weeks of rumors over the future of the Argentine star. In an interview with Mundo Deportivo and Sport on Wednesday, Messi made his decision public.

Messi declared, “I’ve decided I’m heading to Miami. It is not quite finished. We chose to carry on even though there are still a few things to do. I intended to leave Europe if Barcelona didn’t work out so I could think more about myself away from the spotlight.

💥 El argentino abre las puertas de su casa en París para hablar de su próximo reto profesional


— Diario SPORT (@sport) June 7, 2023

Prior to the interview, Inter Miami’s president Jorge Mas appeared to confirm the deal with a tweet of a Messi jersey, and after that, Inter Miami posted the news.

— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) June 7, 2023

The Athletic claimed on Tuesday that MLS had developed an innovative pitch to sign him that included Apple offering a piece of money produced by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+, as well as assistance from Adidas offering a profit-sharing deal. Since the league’s founding in 1996, Adidas and MLS have collaborated. According to The Athletic, Messi and Adidas began working together in 2006, and in 2017, they agreed to a lifelong footwear contract.

Following the release, MLS explicitly acknowledged that the transaction is still in the early stages.

A statement from Major League Soccer.

— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) June 7, 2023

The 35-year-old superstar will formally depart PSG this month when his contract with the French powerhouse expires. He spent the previous two seasons with them. He spent his whole career with Barcelona, but when his favorite team could no longer pay him due to La Liga’s financial regulations, he moved to France, bringing to an end an era that was legendary at the club and featured the little Argentina as its face, winning every accolade imaginable more than once.

Messi admitted that despite receiving offers to stay in Europe from other teams, he never really gave them much thought.

“I had offers from other European cubs, but I didn’t even think about taking them because my idea was to go to Barcelona and if it didn’t work out, analyzing it, I’d leave European soccer, especially after winning the World Cup, which was what I was missing to finish my career on this side and experience the league in the United States, another way and enjoy the day-to-day but with the same responsibility of wanting to win and do the right thing, just with more peace.”

Messi now gets his wish of playing in the United States with the prospect of former Barcelona colleagues joining him in South Florida. Messi, fresh off winning the World Cup with Argentina in December to likely secure his status as the greatest ever, now gets his wish of playing in the United States.

Landing Messi would be a historic accomplishment for the league, possibly even more significant than the 2007 move made by Inter Miami club president David Beckham to join the Los Angeles Galaxy after leaving Real Madrid.

Despite the lack of European-level competition, Messi is given the chance to play in a league that is expanding, and his contract is likely to include a clause similar to the one David Beckham had in his 15-year-old contract regarding potential future club ownership.

What does this mean for Inter Miami?

Even though the Eastern Conference’s bottom-place team is only six points short of a postseason spot with lots of games left, Messi will be joining them. That is a deficit that is unquestionably manageable. In fact, since Messi’s signing was disclosed, Miami’s futures odds have been falling.

With a 1-0 victory over Birmingham Legion on Wednesday, the team progressed to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, and Inter Miami now may have the next Ballon d’Or winner on their roster.

Messi will be joining a team that is now in last place in the Eastern Conference, but with still plenty of games left, they are only six points shy of a playoff spot. A deficit like that is undoubtedly manageable. In fact, since the announcement of Messi, Miami’s futures odds have been falling.

With a 1-0 victory over Birmingham Legion on Wednesday, the team moved to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, and Inter Miami now has a player who could end up winning the next Ballon d’Or on their roster.

He recently had a season of over 20 goals and 20 assists for PSG and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He was the greatest player in the World Cup. Aged celebrities frequently need to remake themselves, but not Messi. He can continue playing at this level for a bit longer because he is still quick, clinical, and more of a leader than ever.

Why Inter Miami?

This choice is not in the least bit athletic. He would have if he had desired to play in a better league. He might have traveled elsewhere in Europe, but as he put it, he wished to spend some time away from the largest and brightest spotlight. In South Florida, he will still be mobbed, but he should experience a little bit more quiet on a daily basis.

The destination for Argentines is Miami. Argentines often consider a trip to Miami like we would look a trip to, say, London or Rome, whether it’s because it’s close to Disney World, because of its beaches, or because it has so many other attractions. It’s one of those classic locations and a hugely well-liked vacation spot for Argentines. There are plenty of Argentines already residing there, numerous parillas (Argentina restaurants that sell grilled meats), frequent direct flights to Argentina, shops where he may get everything from his native country, and more.

It seems like a family decision and one regarding future convenience as he has expressed a desire to live in the United States and experience life here.

Consider this: both the 2024 Copa America and the 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, with some games at the latter event also taking place in Canada and Mexico. If Messi is already here, it reduces travel time, gives him more family time, and more.

When could he debut?

On July 21, Miami will play Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the Concacaf Leagues Cup, which may mark Messi’s competitive debut. The MLS transfer window starts on July 5 and his contract with PSG expires on June 30.

Who could join him?

There is a lot of talk that Messi and his friends will get into this. Many of his former colleagues, notably Luis Suarez, who is currently playing for Brazilian club Gremio, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, are being mentioned in connection with a movie. His teammate on the Argentina national team, Angel Di Maria, who also scored in the World Cup final, is a name to keep an eye on. Of course, signing any of them—including Messi—will require some roster juggling to make it all work because of MLS wage limits and designated player regulations. I believe the league will strive to be quite adaptable in order to achieve that.

Social media reaction to the news

What this means for the sport in this country, according to our Nico Cantor:

“It would mean everything, it would be the most revolutionary signing in the history of MLS.” @Nicocantor1 on what Lionel Messi signing for Inter Miami would mean for the MLS. 🗣️

NBA All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, a co-owner of Nashville SC.

Welcome to the MLS Messi!! See you at Nashville🔥🚀

— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) June 7, 2023

Tyreke Hill of the Miami Dolphins greets Messi

From one 🔟 to another:

Welcome to Miami, Leo Messi! 🙌

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 7, 2023

He already has a baseball jersey from the Miami Marlins.

From one 🔟 to another:

Welcome to Miami, Leo Messi! 🙌

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 7, 2023

MLS club FC Cincinnati having fun with it

— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 7, 2023

Saudi Arabia and Barcelona miss out

Messi ultimately had a 2.5 horse advantage. Barcelona always intended to get back in on the deal that fell through, but ultimately the team was unable to free up the funds required to complete the transaction. Although there were rumors that La Liga had approved a potential deal after Messi’s father Jorge met with the club this week, it never materialized. Messi’s camp informed Barcelona on Wednesday that he wouldn’t be hanging around for them to try and come up with a solution. Wednesday afternoon, a statement from Barcelona was released.

“On Monday, June 5, Jorge Messi, the player’s father and agent, informed Club President Joan Laporta of the player’s decision to sign with Inter Miami despite being given a proposal from Barça, taking into account the desire of both FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi for him to once again wear the blaugrana. President Laporta acknowledged and accepted Messi’s choice to compete in a league with less requirements, away from the attention and pressure he has been under lately. Joan Laporta and Jorge Messi also concurred to collaborate in order to encourage Barça supporters to pay tribute to a footballer who has been, is, and always will be a favorite of the club.

Two teams are now left. Saudi Arabia as a whole made a concerted effort to lure Messi, with our own James Benge reporting that senior government representatives were in Paris last week trying to seal the deal. And, as Benge reports, they were so confident that they had won Messi over that they offered to fly him and his father from Paris and Barcelona, respectively, in their own private aircraft to make the deal official. Messi ultimately settled on Miami, though.