By Daniel Matthews and Kate McGreavy for Dailymail.Com
Updated: 20:21 15 July 2023
- Lionel Messi has officially joined Inter Miami after leaving Paris Saint-Germain
- MLS and Miami fans had been waiting weeks for confirmation of his arrival
- DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news
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’.
He turned down a more lucrative offer from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, while a return to boyhood club Barcelona proved financially unfeasible.
Messi, who joins the club as a Designated Player, said: ‘I am 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 goals we have set for ourselves and I am 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 $60 million-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 a opportunity that could see him become part owner of the club.
“I am honored to welcome Leo Messi and his family to their new home,” said Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas.
‘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 soccer in the United States and ensure that wherever soccer is discussed, your Inter Miami is part of the conversation. A heartfelt thank you to our fans who never stopped believing. Together we will continue to make dreams come true.’
Co-owner David Beckham added on Saturday: ‘Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said I dreamed of bringing the best players in the world to this amazing city.
‘Players who shared the ambition I had when I joined the LA Galaxy to help grow soccer in the United States and build a legacy for the next generation in this sport we love so much.
‘Today that dream came true. I couldn’t be prouder to have a player of Leo’s caliber join our club, but I’m also happy to welcome a good friend, an amazing person and his beautiful family to our Inter Miami community.
‘The next phase of our adventure starts here and I can’t wait to see Leo take to the field.’
Messi will work under Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino in Miami, having previously played under the veteran coach for Barca and the Argentina national team.
Former team-mate Sergio Busquets has already followed Messi to Miami and both are expected to be unveiled on Sunday, while Jordi Alba is also reportedly close to joining the MLS outfit.
Messi is expected to make his debut on July 21 when Inter Miami take on Mexican outfit Cruz Azul. He could also play just four days later in the same Leagues Cup competition against Atlanta.
“This is a historic moment for Inter Miami, MLS and soccer in the United States, both on the sporting side and in this new era of business opportunity,” said Xavier Asensi, Inter Miami Chief Business Officer.
Lionel is the greatest player of all time, which naturally led us to design an unprecedented deal in the world of sports. We are enormously proud to have been able to present Leo with an extraordinary project that we are sure will benefit all parties involved.’
The club’s head of football and sporting director Chris Henderson added: ‘Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent. What he brings on and off the pitch will lift everyone around him and we are delighted to have him at Inter Miami.’
Supporters will hope that Messi and Busquets can then help transform the team’s fortunes in Major League Soccer.
Miami is currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just 18 points through 21 games.
That record leaves them 11 points off the final playoff spot, with Messi set to be available for the final 12 games of the regular season.
Miami twice blew a lead in its latest MLS game against Wayne Rooney’s DC United side last Saturday night to extend its winless streak to 10 games.
Nigel Robertha’s goal in the 77th minute prevented Miami from picking up an important victory. Inter have now drawn three in a row since Martino’s appointment 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.
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’s even pulled it on himself.
Beckham, meanwhile, was recently filmed standing on a crane and painting a giant mural of Messi on the side of a building in Miami.
Messi has enjoyed a holiday ahead of his arrival in Miami, after which he will wind down in the Caribbean with his wife Antonela before starting his new life in MLS.
There have been some suggestions that the 36-year-old could – even should – get special treatment from officials.
An MLS coach said so Athletics 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 concluded 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 another level.’
He added: ‘The last thing you want to be is to be seen ruining the game or giving players who have far less talent and experience the opportunity to do something to a player like Lionel Messi.’
Messi stunned shoppers at American supermarket chain Publix on Thursday night as he, his wife and and their three sons, Thiago, 10, Mateo, 7, and Ciro, 5, stocked up on supplies.