Is he coming or is he not coming? In the American football league MLS, which started a new season last Saturday, the name of Lionel Messi is regularly mentioned. The Argentine world champion has been associated for months with Inter Miami CF, the club of David Beckham.
Miami would like to bring the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to Florida next summer along with Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets. “I won’t deny that we’re interested,” Miami coach Phil Neville said heading into the league opener against Montreal.
In Miami, people think big. The club, which made its MLS debut in 2020, has been linked to the most famous names since its founding. Ronaldo was mentioned. Griezmann, Di Maria and Messi. But so far co-owner Beckham’s club have had to make do with retirees Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi. Kieran Gibbs has come. Leaving behind. Former Arsenal. Messi would be of a different order.
When Beckham got his MLS license in 2018, the former LA Galaxy player posted a video message from the Argentine on his Instagram account. He concluded his congratulations with a joke, we thought: ‘Who knows, you could call me in a few years’. The call did not come from Beckham, but from co-owner and billionaire Jorge Mas. They say he leads the negotiations.
Messi’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain ends next summer, who would like to keep him. Paris has been talking about an extension for weeks, but Miami would be a strong contender to snatch it, reports The Team earlier this month.
Messi would have ears for a crossover. “I’ve always dreamed of living in the United States and experiencing competitive football there,” he told Argentinian TV channel La Sexta more than two years ago. The world champion has a house in Miami, where he likes, like many other football players, to go on vacation. He doesn’t need to speak English. The sunny beach town is a slice of South America where most locals speak Spanish.
As the 2026 World Cup approaches, Messi’s arrival would give MLS a serious boost. “A game changer,” Neville said. Innovative.
The league has been on a growth spurt in recent years. When Beckham joined LA Galaxy in 2007, there were thirteen clubs. Due to the addition of St. Louis City SC, which made its debut on Saturday, there are currently 29. As of this season, games can be seen worldwide on the Apple TV streaming service, which has deposited 2.4 billion euros for the broadcast of the next ten seasons.
Showing numbers down
So MLS is doing well, but the league can still use a push. Ratings fell last season, and the Mexican Liga MX and Premier League are more popular among American soccer fans. With Messi in the Inter Miami shirt, MLS could start a race to catch up. The Argentine has also caused a significant increase in interest and income in Paris.
At Inter Miami, Messi would join a club under construction. The current Drive Pink Stadium is a temporary home and is also located in Fort Lauderdale, an hour’s drive from famous Miami Beach. It is not until 2025 that the club will move to the state-of-the-art, multifunctional Freedom Park near Miami Airport. It remains to be built.
Beckham’s club also had humble beginnings in sport, hampered by covid. After two unsuccessful seasons, Miami made the playoffs for the first time last year. In the first round, he was ready for football players dressed in pink.
Commercially, the arrival of Messi would be a success in advance, but on the field in MLS no spread bed awaits him. Formerly known as a retirement home for exhausted European stars, the competition has undergone a facelift treatment in recent years. Clubs focus on talent, especially from Latin America. The average age in MLS has dropped to 25.9, younger than the Premier League and Spanish La Liga.
It shows between the lines. In MLS, content and athleticism are decisive. Miami will have to surround the walker Messi, still as brilliant with the ball, with the necessary workers. Other stars, like Busquets, will not be able to simply follow him: MLS clubs are limited in attracting players by, among other things, a salary cap.
That success in MLS is not guaranteed has been proven in recent years by European greats such as Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard (both of New York City FC), who have been choked up in the competition . Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), David Villa (New York City FC) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) mostly enjoyed individual success and never became champions.
But Messi is Messi. If he leaves for America, he will follow in the footsteps of the great Pelé, who brought new prestige to American football in the 1970s at the New York Cosmos. “I’m an optimist,” Inter Miami owner Mas said of Messi’s possible arrival last year. “I think that it is possible.”
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