Lionel Messi: Inter Miami inspires Barcelona to win World Cup

By Paul Tenorio, Philip Cardenas and Paul Maurer

Major League Soccer and Inter Miami are confirming details of a potential deal for Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.

Multiple sources in the negotiations say Inter Miami are increasingly confident they can complete a deal to bring the World Cup winner to MLS this summer. The sources also warned that confidence in Messi’s deal fluctuates from week to week and day to day. All sources in this story were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing negotiations.

A source briefed on top-level league discussions told MLS executives that Messi’s decision would be below Inter Miami or Barcelona, ​​and that joining a club from Saudi Arabia was “not under consideration.” The same source cited a possible date for Messi’s MLS debut, should he sign: Inter Miami’s League Cup match against Mexican side Cruz Azul on July 21, currently at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium.


The summer transfer window is on Athletic


Reports of Messi’s imminent exit have emerged from Europe, South America and Asia and have run the gamut this week, but the momentum seems to have shifted towards Inter Miami in recent days.

“The league is very creative with all of this,” an MLS partner said Tuesday morning of a potential deal to bring Messi to MLS. “Everything is on the table.”

MLS’ offer for Messi included contributions from the league’s two biggest commercial partners.

Multiple sources involved in or briefed on high-level league discussions said earlier this week that MLS and Apple discussed giving Messi a share of revenue generated by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass, the league’s streaming package on Apple TV+. Both sides see Messi’s potential involvement in Major League Soccer as a boon; Apple and MLS signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal this spring. On Tuesday, Apple announced that a four-part documentary series about Messi’s five World Cup appearances will be streamed on Apple TV+.

Adidas, one of MLS’ biggest corporate sponsors, has prepared its own potential arrangement to lure Messi to the United States, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans. Athletic On Tuesday. Messi is offered a profit-sharing deal with the sportswear giant, the sources said, which would offset any increase in Adidas’ profits as a result of his involvement in MLS.

Adidas has partnered with MLS since the league’s inception in 1996. The two sides renewed their partnership earlier this year, signing a six-year, $830 million extension that runs through 2030. The German manufacturer supplies and designs kits for all 29 MLS teams. Official match ball of the league and official shoe sponsor of the league.

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Messi has a long-standing relationship with adidas, which began in 2006. In 2017, he signed a lifetime footwear sponsorship deal with the company.

Sources from around the league have been briefed on the talks as to whether Inter Miami and MLS will win the race to sign Messi. One source classified it as 50-50. Another said even Inter Miami team executives were split on whether they thought it would happen. Inter Miami owners Jorge and Jose Mas are leading the talks, the sources said.

Messages left to Inter Miami’s spokesmen, Jorge and Jose Mas, were not returned at the time of publication.

Messi’s contract also includes an option to buy a percentage of the MLS team after his time as a player in MLS, multiple sources briefed on the discussions said. It would at least be similar to David Beckham’s deal with the LA Galaxy, which gave him the option to buy the MLS expansion team for $25 million. That choice eventually became Inter Miami.

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Miami has been hoping to sign Messi since its inception. When the expansion team was officially announced in 2018, Messi posted a video on social media congratulating Beckham, saying, “Who knows, in a few years you might give me a ring.” The club has worked to build relationships with Messi and has links with his longtime club Barcelona. Miami’s chief commercial officer Xavier Asensi is a former Barcelona chief commercial officer and member of the Spanish club’s board of directors. In April, Beckham, who ended his playing career with Paris Saint-Germain, visited the club’s training facility and posed for a photo with Messi, sparking rumors of a potential move for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to MLS.

If Messi arrives in Miami, he could be greeted by a familiar face. Multiple sources involved in or briefed on Miami’s coaching search have confirmed Athletic Preliminary talks have taken place between Inter Miami and Gerardo “Tada” Martino, who is currently out of a job after leaving the Mexico national team in December.

Miami is currently under interim head coach Javier Morales. The club’s previous coach, Phil Neville, was sacked last week.

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Martino, 60, coached Messi and Argentina to consecutive Copa America finals, the 2016 in the United States, while Martino managed Messi at Barcelona from 2013-2014.

Martino won the MLS Cup in 2018 as manager of Atlanta United. Despite disagreements with Atlanta’s sports department over player contracts, Martino led the two-year-old club to the league title in 2018, his second and final season in MLS. His influence on player recruitment was crucial to Atlanta United’s immediate success.

A source close to Martino requested anonymity because of the nature of their relationship Athletic Messi and Martino got along well when they worked together. They are not close and they are not far apart, the source said. Seven years on, both player and manager have matured in different ways. Messi, once considered a failure with his national team, is now a World Cup champion. Martino is hot on the heels of a return to MLS, coming off a sensational four-year campaign with Mexico. Inter Miami declined to comment on potential coaching candidates.

“MLS is my weakness,” Martino said Athletic In April. “I was part of an extraordinary project with Atlanta United that had a clear direction, a lot of communication and similar objectives, which were established and implemented very quickly. MLS, after training, became attracted to it. I like the league. MLS There is always the possibility of returning to

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MLS Commissioner Dan Garber said Athletic A creative deal could take Messi to the league in March – as Beckham did when he joined LA Galaxy in 2007.

“You’re dealing with one of the most special players in the history of the game,” Garber said of Messi. “So when there are rumors of him being linked to Miami, that’s great. If that happens, it will be terrible for MLS, it will be terrible for Messi and his family, and like everything with us, we are trying to minimize every possibility. I can’t give any more details than that because we don’t have it.

Messi signed a two-year deal with PSG last season after spending the previous 17 years with Barcelona. The French side won their 11th Ligue 1 title this season with Messi scoring 16 goals in 32 league games. He scored four goals in seven appearances in the Champions League. PSG reached the round of 16 in the Champions League in 2022-23, falling to Bayern Munich.

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Last month, he was suspended by PSG for two weeks for taking an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia. Saudi club Al-Hilal are in the running for Messi’s signature, having offered a contract worth $400 million a year.

Founded in 2018, Inter Miami is co-owned by Beckham. It went 14-6-14 last season, sixth in the Eastern Conference, and is 5-0-11 this year. Before they even kicked a ball, Inter Miami was expected to eventually field a group of stars, the MLS version of the Galacticos. It is mostly made up of comments made publicly by Mass.

“David and I are working very hard, we have ambitions to bring the best players here, and Leo Messi is a generational player, the best player of all time,” Moss told the Miami Herald in 2021. “I am confident in Messi playing in the Inter Miami shirt because I think it will complete the legacy of the greatest player of our generation and meet the ambitions of Inter Miami’s owners to build a world-class team.

The reality was very different. Yes, Miami has landed World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi and former Argentina and Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain. But players like Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Antoine Griezmann, Marco Verratti, Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and others are the equivalent of rumors or deals. Inter Miami needs a big star or the fans in South Florida won’t show up on match day.

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“This town wants to be run, you know what I mean?” Neville said in February. “I think this club is far from working class. It has to have some glitz and glamour. It has to aim for the moon rather than the stars. It comes with where we are. Miamians want to be driven. They want South Beach.

Neville doesn’t see if Messi will actually come to MLS. However, he had an opinion on the impact his signing would have on the league.

“I think it’s bigger than Inter Miami,” Neville said. “It’s huge for MLS. I think it’s going to be a huge signing. If there’s an opportunity to sign Messi, if he comes to this football club – I think there’s no hiding from the fact that we’re probably in the ballpark, probably in the hunt. To be ready for that. should.”

(Photo: Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images)

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