After months of frenzied speculation, Messi chose America over an offer from Saudi Arabia worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and over a potential return to his beloved Barcelona.
One of Major League Soccer’s all-time dreams reportedly came true Wednesday. Lionel Messi, soccer’s most famous superstar and arguably its greatest-ever player, has reportedly agreed to join Inter Miami.
The report came from veteran Spanish journalist Guillem Balagué, a contributor to outlets including CBS and the BBC and has known him well for many years.
After months of frenzied speculation, Messi chose the United States over an offer from Saudi Arabia worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and over a potential return to the team of his heart, Spain’s Barcelona, where he spent the first 16 years of his career.
Messi will arrive in MLS less than a year after the crowning achievement of his career, winning the men’s World Cup with Argentina. He has won the UEFA Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times and the French league twice, as well as the 2021 Copa América and 2008 Olympics with Argentina.
Individually, he is a seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or award as the world’s top men’s player, and a three-time winner of FIFA’s player of the year prize.
What it took to get Messi to MLS isn’t yet known. Balagué, a contributor to outlets including CBS and the BBC, reported that Apple and Adidas stood ready to pitch in with commercial deals “to make his brand even bigger.”
Apple holds MLS’s worldwide broadcasting rights, and will sell lots of streaming subscriptions with Messi on its platform; Adidas is MLS’s exclusive jersey supplier, and Miami’s pink-and-black shirts will fly off the shelves.
The Athletic reported that MLS and Apple “have discussed” giving Messi a share of revenue from subscriptions to Apple’s MLS Season Pass package. Coincidentally — or perhaps not? — Apple recently struck a deal with Messi to distribute a four-part documentary on his career. The announcement did not say when the series will be released, and a spokesperson for the production declined to give The Inquirer any more details.
What did Saudi Arabia offer Lionel Messi?
But MLS’s triumph is undoubtedly an upset. The Saudi offer was reportedly over $400 million per year in salary, plus commercial deals, for a two-season stay. There has never been a salary greater than $14 million per year in MLS. Messi’s pay will surely top that, but it will be a surprise if he earns more 10% of what he could have in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia was able to offer that huge sum because of backing from the government’s sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund. The PIF also owns English club Newcastle United and LIV Golf, launching the latter to rebel against the PGA Tour until the PGA agreed to a merger this week.