LOS ANGELES (Reuters)
Lionel Messi will snub a lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia and move to Major League Soccer side (MLS) Inter Miami as a free agent after parting ways with French champions Paris St Germain, The BBC reported on Wednesday (June 7).
Messi, who played his final game for PSG over the weekend, was also linked with a return to Barcelona but the Spanish club have had their hands tied due to LaLiga’s financial fair play rules.
Should the deal with Miami go through, the 35-year-old Argentine will play outside Europe for the first time since he joined Barca’s academy at the age of 13 and became the Spanish club’s all-time record goalscorer with 672 goals.
MLS could not confirm the BBC report and said that the league approves all player contracts.
Inter Miami did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Messi had wanted to go to a club where he could eventually have an ownership stake, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters this week. He also wanted to maximise his existing deal with Adidas and MLS’s relationship with Apple.
MLS earns a flat fee of around US$250 million per year from Apple until it reaches a certain threshold of subscriptions, after which point it will earn a share of the revenue from those subscriptions.
Messi’s move to MLS is expected to drive viewers to the Apple TV streaming platform, as the world’s most recognisable soccer player.
Messi, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar last December and has earned a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, won the Ligue 1 title in his two seasons with PSG as well as the French Super Cup in 2022.
The forward was also linked with a move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal after he received a formal offer.
The Gulf country has been looking to bring the game’s biggest players to its league and was successful in convincing Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al Nassr soon after the World Cup. French striker Karim Benzema joined Al Ittihad this week.
Inter Miami are co-owned by former England captain David Beckham, who was one of the first major European stars to move to the United States to play in the MLS, winning the MLS Cup twice with Los Angeles Galaxy.
Once the crown jewel of European football, Messi has effectively been let go by two super clubs in two years — for free.
At Barcelona, Messi has several records to his name at the club he did not want to leave, in a city he had called home since he was a teenager.
But Messi had no choice in the manner of his exit from Barcelona in 2021 as the club failed to make it financially feasible to retain his services.
His move away from PSG, however, is of his own volition as he felt the French club lacked a project for the future while fan unrest only hastened his exit.
The highs after winning Argentina’s first World Cup in 36 years were quickly offset by the lows he experienced in Paris.
Even before he could rest on his World Cup laurels he found himself in the eye of a storm when, for the first time in his illustrious career, his club’s fans turned against him amid PSG’s troubling form.
Supporters of PSG, owned and funded by Qatar Sports Investments, have become accustomed to winning domestic titles in the past decade. They won their ninth title in 11 seasons last month.
But the holy grail — the Champions League — remains elusive after yet another meek exit in the last 16.