The biggest international soccer star to ever join Major League Soccer was David Beckham when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Beckham is now part of the ownership group of Inter Miami, and the team has landed the biggest possible fish available with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi reportedly turning down hundreds of millions of dollars to play in Saudi Arabia to instead play in Miami this summer. Betfair recently suspended the option to bet on Messi's new team because Miami was taking huge money.
The 35-year-old Messi is a seven-time Ballon d'Or winner as the best player in the world and could add an eighth trophy later this year after leading Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title – Messi's first such championship, the only thing that was missing from his resume. Messi was voted the tournament's best player, winning the Golden Ball. He scored twice in the epic final vs. France and converted his penalty kick, finishing the tournament with seven goals in seven matches.
Messi will become a free agent when his contract at French side Paris Saint-Germain officially expires June 30, with the club having confirmed his departure before its final game of the Ligue 1 season recently. Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal reportedly offered Messi an absolutely absurd two-year, $1.3 billion US deal.
Talks with Messi and the country's Public Investment Fund (PIF) have taken place over recent months. Monday saw the announcement that PIF had taken over four clubs: Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr, and Al Hilal. The PIF was in the news Tuesday as well with its sponsored LIV Golf Tour merging with the PGA Tour starting next year. The Saudi Pro League already lured Cristiano Ronaldo in January, and Karim Benzema's move to champion Al Ittihad has been finalized. Chelsea's N'Golo Kante is closing in on a transfer as well.
A Saudi delegation traveled to meet Messi on Monday to up the offer after he played his last game for PSG over the weekend. PSG won Ligue 1 in both his seasons at the club but failed to make an impact in the Champions League. Messi totaled 32 goals in 75 games for the club and ended this season with 16 goals and 16 assists in Ligue 1.
Barcelona also was interested in bringing Messi back, but the Financial Fair Play limitations that will be in place for next season in La Liga essentially ended any chance of that. Messi's father had said his son favored a return to Barcelona.
Messi apparently was lured to Inter Miami for a variety of reasons – one report in England claimed that Messi and his wife Antonella didn't want their kids to live in Saudi Arabia.
The deal includes collaboration from brands like Adidas and Apple, and Messi already has a home in Miami. MLS and Apple have discussed offering Messi a share of the revenue generated by new subscribers the platform's streaming package, MLS Season Pass. Apple is also working on a four-part docuseries recounting Messi's World Cup history. There are some rumors Messi will have the option to purchase a stake in an MLS expansion club at a pre-set price. That's what lured Beckham to the USA.
The MLS season is well underway, with Inter Miami off to an ugly 5-11 start and last in the Eastern Conference with 15 points. The team recently parted company with head coach Phil Neville. Inter Miami is +5000 to win the MLS Cup, and those odds have dropped a bit today already.
Note that while this isn't deal official as of this writing, we have a reported Messi debut date: Inter Miami's Leagues Cup match against Mexican side Cruz Azul on July 21 in Florida.
The European season comes to a close Saturday with the Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.
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