In partnership with Media City Qatar. After winning the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Lionel Messi has begun a new challenge in the MLS.
Lionel Messi's performance at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be remembered in the sport's history forever. Argentina was crowned champions of the world after a thrilling penalty shootout. Argentina are still riding high and are in fine form into 2023.
Immediately after Messi returned to France after a fantastic tournament, the media widely reported how unhappy he was at PSG.
Offers for the player came flying in from big teams worthy of a player like Messi. So, it shocked the world when he announced he would move to a lesser-known team in Florida. Upon leaving Paris Sait Germain in June, Messi signed for Inter Miami FC in the United States of America. Former England, Manchester United and Real Madrid star David Beckham is in charge of the new MLS expansion side.
Off the pitch, the signing was a wise investment. The gaze of the footballing world was now firmly fixed on the Major League Soccer. The signing generated so much interest that Inter Miami's Messi shirt sold out within 24 hours, breaking all sports jersey records and eclipsing the previous record held by Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It just moves everything up a notch for MLS, putting them in the conversation. Sports media in America that have ignored soccer all the time, apart from World Cups, are now talking about MLS games with all leagues and cup games. And with the World Cup coming to the US in 2026. It's just moving the sport up several notches."
At 36 years old, there were no guarantees that the signing would also transform the club's fortunes on the pitch. But once again, the man known as 'La Pulga' (Little Pea) is proving to be phenomenal. Messi has led Inter Miami to their first-ever trophy. He won the Golden Boot after winning the League Cup. Last but not least, he was also named Player of the Tournament. After a six-week break, the domestic campaign is back underway. The Herons were bottom of the table before Messi's arrival, but an MLS debut that included a sublime goal and win was the perfect way to restart.
Despite receiving lucrative offers to play elsewhere, moving to the United States has proven to be the right choice after just three months. The Saudi Pro League's recent acquisition of world stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar saw them reportedly discuss a €370 million-per-year deal with Messi. That sum would far eclipse Cristiano Ronaldo's remuneration at the Riyadh-based side, Al-Nassr.
Many hoped a return to Barcelona was on the cards, too. That transfer would have given the former captain closure on a remarkable 21-year stint following an emotional goodbye in 2021.
"We were heartbroken", says Barcelona supporter Romàn de Arquer.
"He'd been there for so long, and he'd been a key player for us. Without him, we wouldn't have lived all these incredible moments, that's for sure. So it was really, really tough. Barca talked a lot with his father, but it didn't happen either. And it was a heartbreak for a second time. But I mean, in the end, we have to move on. What can we do? You know, at least we have all those memories from Leo Messi, and I'm sure he'll be back in the club, even if it's not as a player." Romàn concluded.
As the Ballon d'Or football awards ceremony approaches, could Messi add to his record-breaking cabinet by winning his eighth Ballon d'Or award in France later this year? If he is recognised as the most significant individual in football, it will round off another incredible year for the superstar.
Having a star of Messi's magnitude will bring challenges for David Beckham and the club's co-owners, alongside manager Gerard Martimo, who must manage Messi's game-time. At 36 years old, he cannot play every minute of every match. Their biggest problem is trying to keep the fans happy. Miami Ultras fans are willing to pay up to 460 euros for match-day tickets. Many fans will travel far and wide to capture a glimpse of the man they consider the greatest player of all time. It has been a fantastic start to life in the States so far for Lionel Messi. It has been a total game-changer not just for Inter Miami and Major League Soccer as a whole.