Lionel Messi has finalized his deal to join Major League Soccer, and after years of planning and searching, Inter Miami has achieved a global icon.
Messi’s contract became official on Saturday, just over five weeks after he announced he would join Inter Miami. The team will introduce him on Sunday night at their Fort Lauderdale stadium, and the first home game of the Messi era could be as soon as Friday in a League Cup game against Cruz Azul.
A formal press conference is scheduled for Monday and his first training session with his new club is expected on Tuesday. The club previously announced that Messi’s contract will be for two and a half seasons and will pay him between $50 million and $60 million annually, putting the total value of the contract between $125 million and $150 million in cash alone.
“WELCOME 10,” the team posted Saturday on Twitter.
Welcome, Messi, in fact.
“We are delighted that the best player in the world has chosen Inter Miami CF and Major League Soccer, and his decision is a testament to the drive and energy behind our league and our sport in North America,” said the commissioner of MLS manager Don Garber in a statement. . “We have no doubt that Lionel will show the world that MLS can be a league of choice for the best players in the game.”
[Messi joining Inter Miami is validation for Major League Soccer and its progress]
It is, in many ways, an unusual marriage. Messi, still perhaps the game’s biggest star, is signing with a team that entered last place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings on Saturday. It’s a club in just its fourth season playing in a temporary home that seats only about 22,000 when some hasty renovations are completed, like adding extra seating in the stands.
It doesn’t matter Soccer royalty now plays for Inter Miami.
Messi arrived in South Florida on Tuesday after vacation, then began the process of physicals and paperwork on Wednesday and the deal closed Saturday afternoon. The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, the trophy awarded annually to the world’s best player, is moving to Miami after two years with Paris Saint-Germain.
“I am very excited to start this next step in my career with Inter Miami and in the United States,” Messi said in a statement. “This is a fantastic opportunity and together we will continue to build this beautiful project. The idea is to work together to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, and I am very much looking forward to helping here in my new home.”
It was widely known that Messi would be leaving PSG. The mystery was where he was headed. Some thought Messi would eventually choose to play for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, following rival Cristiano Ronaldo to a kingdom where some clubs are now financed by his sovereign wealth fund. Returning to Barcelona, a storied franchise where he spent most of his career, was another possibility.
In the end, Miami won. An idea that co-owner David Beckham started floating around publicly in 2021, two years earlier – evidently the team really started to think about how to achieve this – has now become a reality.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the United States league to experience soccer in a different way,” Messi said in June when announcing his decision.
[Lionel Messi to Inter Miami: Contract details, debut date, full schedule]
He led Argentina to the World Cup title last December. Messi has over 800 career goals from him for club and country, making him one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the sport. He scored twice in last year’s World Cup final against France, a game that ended 3-3 with Argentina prevailing 4-2 on penalties.
He is a four-time Champions League champion and his 129 goals in the top club competition are surpassed by Ronaldo’s 140. Messi has won 10 La Liga titles and two Ligue 1 championships, seven Copas del Rey and three Club World Cups plus one Copa América. and Olympic gold medal for Argentina.
“Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said that I dreamed of bringing the best players in the world to this incredible city,” Beckham said. “Players who shared the ambition I had when I joined the LA Galaxy to help grow soccer in the US and build a legacy for the next generation in this game we love so much.
“Today that dream came true.”
The club had an away game on Saturday in St. Louis, however when word broke that Messi may have been at the team facility that morning, a couple hundred fans turned up just hoping to catch a glimpse. , not even deterred by a thunderstorm late in the morning. Many wore Messi jerseys, some in Argentina’s light blue, others in Inter Miami’s pink and black. Some carried flags; one carried a sign mostly in Spanish, but the words “Messi” and “GOAT” made the message clear.
It’s just part of a welcome party that’s just getting started.
Messi was seen at a Publix supermarket near Fort Lauderdale — the supermarket chain is a sponsor of Inter Miami — with his family earlier in the week, and the kids selected a few items in the cart: Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms . The scene went viral when he got to the checkout line.
A serial scorer is obviously a cereal fanatic too.
And now, it’s time for the football to begin. Inter Miami plans to introduce Messi on Sunday night, at an event the club calls “The Unveil.” Shakira is rumored to be in attendance, and the show that has been anticipated for weeks has long been sold out.
Hopes for the franchise are now officially sky high. Inter Miami has never competed for a title; Messi could change everything quickly for a team that has won just 34% of its MLS games.
“Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent,” Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson said. “What he brings on and off the field will elevate everyone around him and we are excited to have him at Inter Miami.”
Associated Press report.
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