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Lionel Messi to choose Inter Miami in stunning MLS move: reports

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Lionel Messi reportedly will choose Inter Miami CF of Major League Soccer as his next club, a stunning development that would bring the 2022 World Cup champion and record-setting seven-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner to one of the league’s newest teams.

The move is not yet official, however, with conflicting reports on the finality of Messi’s decision and no public announcement from the player, team or league.

CBS Sports and BBC journalist Guillem Balague, who wrote Messi’s authorized biography, reported Wednesday “Messi has decided. His destination: Inter Miami.” The Athletic reported an agreement is close, but not yet “a done deal,” according to multiple MLS sources. And the Miami Herald reported it could take another week for Messi’s decision to be final.

While a move by Messi to Miami had been rumor fodder, such a transaction seemed like a dreamland scenario for MLS and a team that is in its fourth season, sits in last place in the Eastern Conference and recently sacked its coach. An offer from Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal reportedly would have paid Messi around $400 million a year, according to The Telegraph, but Messi’s communication with the club has diminished, ESPN reported.

FC Barcelona — where Messi played 17 seasons, winning 10 La Liga titles — also was considered in the mix, with Messi’s father suggesting his son would prefer a return to his old club.

MLS and Inter Miami, which is owned by David Beckham, had to get imaginative in the attempt to lure Messi. MLS and its broadcast partner, Apple, offered Messi a share of revenue generated by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+, the Athletic reported citing multiple sources. Messi also was offered a profit-sharing deal with Adidas, per the Athletic. On Tuesday, Apple TV+ announced that it was developing a four-part documentary series featuring Messi.

Milestone moment for MLS

Landing Messi will be considered a seminal moment in the history of a league that continues to strive for consistent relevance in a crowded American sports landscape. One such moment happened 16 years ago when global soccer icon David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy. Beckham’s arrival spawned the league’s designated player rule ― also known as “The Beckham Rule” ― in which MLS teams can acquire players outside of the salary cap. Also part of the deal to get Beckham to join the Galaxy was an option for him to buy an MLS expansion team for $25 million. In February 2014 Beckham exercised that option to bring a team to Miami, and on March 1, 2020 Inter Miami CF finally made its debut.

The Major League Soccer that Messi will join is very different from the league Beckham joined in 2007. That season, there were just 13 teams; MLS recently announced its 30th club. MLS’ regular-season attendance averaged 15,504 in 2006, the season before Beckham’s arrival. During the 2023 season, five MLS teams ― each of which did not exist before Beckham’s arrival ― average more than 25,000 fans a game. So far this season, the league averages more than 21,000 a game.

Rough end for Messi at PSG

Messi’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain expired with the end of the 2022-23 Ligue 1 season, during which PSG were league champions but had a disappointing UEFA Champions League campaign, bowing out during the Round of 16. Messi was expected to be the missing piece for Champions League glory for PSG, which had never won European club soccer’s most prestigious trophy; Messi arrived in Paris after having won the Champions League four times during his time with Barcelona. Instead, Messi was booed before his final game for Paris Saint-Germain.

Read more at usatoday.com

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