Inter Miami has finally announced the signing of Lionel Messi to confirm the worst-kept secret in Major League Soccer.
Messi, considered one of the greatest players of all time, has signed a deal with the club through the 2025 MLS season following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain.
His arrival represents a major coup for David Beckham‘s Miami and for MLS, with Messi’s arrival expected to take the sport to new heights in the United States.
The 36-year-old, a World Cup winner with Argentina, announced his move to MLS last month but fans finally saw pictures of him in an Inter Miami shirt on Saturday.
The club released a 40-second video to finally announce the superstar’s move, with the caption: ‘Yes, guys.’
Inter Miami has finally announced the arrival of Lionel Messi to confirm MLS’ worst-kept secret
Sí, Muchachos📍 pic.twitter.com/8E3f9hb9VU
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 15, 2023
Messi has signed a deal with the club through the 2025 MLS season following PSG departure
Messi has been on vacation in the Caribbean with wife Antonela and their three sons
The arrival of Messi, 36, represents a major coup for David Beckham’s Inter Miami and for MLS
He turned down a more lucrative offer from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, while a return to boyhood club Barcelona proved financially impossible.
Messi, who joins the club as a Designated Player, said: ‘I’m very excited to start this next step in my career with Inter Miami and in the United States.
‘This is a fantastic opportunity and together we will continue to build this beautiful project. The idea is to work together to achieve the objectives we set, and I’m very eager to start helping here in my new home.’
Messi, who won four Champions League titles with Barca and scored 672 goals in 778 games for the club, is believed to have been offered a $60million-a-year contract by Inter Miami that includes new deals with adidas and Apple.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will bank money from adidas shirt sales and Apple MLS subscriptions, while the deal is also said to include an option that could see him become a part-owner of the club.
‘I am honored to welcome Leo Messi and his family to their new home,’ Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas said.
‘In 2018, we made a promise to build an ambitious club that would attract the world’s elite players.
‘A club that would transform the global view of futbol in the United States and ensure that wherever futbol is discussed, your Inter Miami is part of the conversation. A heartfelt thank you to our fans that never stopped believing. Together we will continue to turn dreams into reality.’
The club released a 40-second video for the superstar’s move, with the caption: ‘Yes, guys’
En Argentina nació, y acá lo podrán ver 🎺🏠 pic.twitter.com/cttcLKzepc
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 15, 2023
The 36-year-old, considered one of the greatest of all time, led Argentina to World Cup glory
Co-owner David Beckham added on Saturday: ‘Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said that I dreamt of bringing the greatest players in the world to this amazing city.
‘Players who shared the ambition I had when I joined LA Galaxy to help grow football in the USA and to build a legacy for the next generation in this sport that we love so much.
‘Today that dream came true. I couldn’t be prouder that a player of Leo’s caliber is joining our club, but I am also delighted to welcome a good friend, an amazing person and his beautiful family to join our Inter Miami community.
‘The next phase of our adventure starts here, and I can’t wait to see Leo take to the pitch.’
Messi will work under Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino in Miami, having previously played under the veteran coach for Barca and the Argentina national team.
Former teammate Sergio Busquets has already followed Messi to Miami, with both expected to be unveiled on Sunday, while Jordi Alba is reportedly close to joining the MLS outfit, too.
Messi is expected to make his debut on July 21, when Inter Miami takes on Mexican outfit Cruz Azul. He could also play just four days later in the same Leagues Cup competition against Atlanta.
Inter Miami faces St. Louis in MLS action tonight.
‘This is a historic moment for Inter Miami, MLS, and futbol in the United States, both on the sporting side and in this new era of business opportunities,’ Xavier Asensi, Inter Miami chief business officer, said.
Victoria Beckham shared clips of David painting a mural ahead of Lionel Messi’s Miami arrival
The windows of adidas’ flagship store in New York are filled with mock-ups of Messi
A sign reads ‘Bienvenido A Miami’ above a photo of Messi and Inter Miami merchandise
‘Lionel is the best player of all time which has, naturally, led us to design an unprecedented agreement in the sporting world. We’re tremendously proud to have been able to present Leo with an extraordinary project that we’re sure will be beneficial for all of the parties involved.’
The club’s chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson added: ‘Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent. What he brings on and off the field will elevate everyone around him and we’re excited to have him at Inter Miami.’
Supporters will be hoping Messi and Busquets can then help transform the team’s fortunes in Major League Soccer.
Miami currently sits bottom of the Eastern Conference, with just 18 points through 21 games.
That record leaves them 11 points adrift of the last playoff spot, with Messi set to be available for the final 12 regular season matches.
Miami twice blew a lead in its most recent MLS match, against Wayne Rooney‘s DC United team last Saturday night, to extend its winless streak to 10 games.
Nigel Robertha’s 77th-minute goal prevented Miami from picking up a vital win. Inter has now drawn three in a row since Martino’s hiring was announced.
In New York, 1,300 miles away from Messi’s new home in Florida, the windows of adidas’ flagship store were filled with mock-ups of MLS‘ biggest star before the move became official.
Messi, his wife Antonela and his three children went shopping at Publix in Palm Beach
Messi looked like any other shopper walking down the aisles of the supermarket with family
In pictures taken by DailyMail.com, the sportswear giant’s Broadway venue is covered in pictures of Messi wearing his new Inter Miami strip, before he has even pulled it on himself.
Beckham, meanwhile, was recently filmed standing on a crane, painting a huge mural of Messi on a side of a building in Miami.
Messi has been enjoying a vacation ahead of his arrival in Miami, winding down in the Caribbean with his wife Antonela, before he begins his new life in MLS.
There have been some suggestions that the 36-year-old could – even should – be given special treatment from officials.
One MLS coach told The Athletic that the Argentine should ‘get the (Michael) Jordan treatment. (He) should get every single call.’
But any ‘Jordan treatment’ could lead to MLS teams implementing their own version of the ‘Jordan rules’, which saw the Detroit Pistons conclude in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the best way to defend Jordan was to injure him and take him out of the game.
Meanwhile, Robert Sibiga, the 2021 MLS Referee of the Year, said: ‘This is not the level of David Beckham, or Zlatan (Ibrahimovic). This is a different level.’
He added: ‘The last thing you want to be is to be seen screwing up the game or allowing players who have way less talent and experience to do something to a player like Lionel Messi.’
Messi pictured enjoying the final days of his vacation before life begins at Inter Miami
Messi and wife Antonela (right) have shared pictures throughout their Caribbean break
Messi stunned shoppers at US supermarket chain Publix on Thursday night as he, his wife and and their three sons, Thiago, 10, Mateo, 7, and Ciro, 5 filled up on supplies.
The family trip to the shop came a day after they were spotted out for dinner at one of SoFlo’s hotspots.
On Wednesday night, Messi attempted to leave Italian restaurant Cafe Prima Pasta in Miami Beach through the back door with Antonela and their sons, while his dad Jorge also appeared to be with them.
Despite his attempt at a sneaky exit, Messi, who has a $9m apartment in Miami, was swarmed by fans with one overenthusiastic supporter even kissing him on the cheek.