Biggest signing in MLS history and part-time ownership? Messi's Inter Miami contract can shatter Beckham, Rooney records

Jun 08, 2023 11:23 AM IST

Lionel Messi is perhaps the American Major League Soccer's greatest player acquisition in its history, alongside legends Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Lampard, Beckham.

Argentinian football legend Lionel Messi has confirmed in an interview with Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo that he will join American side Inter Miami. This comes in the wake of Messi’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain coming to an end, and amidst interest from his long-time former employers FC Barcelona, as well as a big-money offer from the Saudi Arabian league, which recently added Karim Benzema to its roster that already boasts of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi is set for far greater and bigger things with his new MLS deal.(Getty)
Lionel Messi is set for far greater and bigger things with his new MLS deal.(Getty)

Even at 35, Messi continues to be a jewel in football’s crown, coming off captaining Argentina to a World Cup victory in December. He is perhaps the American Major League Soccer's greatest player acquisition in its history, alongside legends of the game who joined the MLS such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and David Beckham, who are now part of the ownership group at Inter Miami. The MLS has worked alongside Inter Miami in crafting a deal that could entice Messi to choose the Florida-based team over Barcelona, which Messi has admitted is still where his heart resides.

Messi's contract, therefore, takes on an interesting shape, with reports indicating that two of the MLS’s biggest commercial partners have been included in the deal to make an offer worth Messi's value. Besides expected to be the biggest signing in the 27-year-old history of MLS, Apple signed a 10-year deal worth US$2.5 billion with the MLS earlier this year, which provided their streaming service Apple TV+ with the MLS Season Pass. Messi will be offered a portion of the revenue shares generated by Apple over the course of his contract — which could be two years long, as per Revelo, or up to four, according to Spain-based Sport. In addition, Apple TV+ has also announced a four-part docuseries covering Messi’s World Cup journey, providing behind-the-scenes looks at Argentina’s triumph in Qatar last winter.

A contract like no other for Messi?

The contract also includes a deal with Adidas, which has been the MLS’s partner since its inception in the 1996 season, and now is the brand partner for all 29 teams in the league. They have also been the brand that has represented Messi since 2006: the Argentinian signed a lifetime deal with the sporting giants in 2017 as well. The new deal with Adidas will reportedly see a profit-sharing system put in place with Messi, with him earning a cut of whatever profits the German brand earns through the MLS going forward.

Adidas also signed an extension on their contract with the MLS, a six-year deal through to 2030 which will net $830 million over its course. As Adidas’s star athlete in the football world, this deal makes Messi a stakeholder in the MLS’s future heading forward. Moreover, sources envision the deal to include further perks for Messi, similar to those Beckham received in his blockbuster contract with LA Galaxy in 2007. This included an option to invest in an extension franchise in the MLS for a cut-price cost — an option that manifested in the creation of Inter Miami in 2018.

Messi set to overtake David Beckham

Beckham, who is in many ways the face of the Inter Miami franchise as well as the MLS, for whom he was the first global superstar, was spotted earlier this year at a PSG training camp, taking pictures alongside Messi as well as his high-calibre teammates Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, amongst others. Messi and Beckham have had a strong business relationship for several years now, with Messi posting a video in 2018 to congratulate Beckham on his establishment of Inter Miami.

In many ways, this acts as a full circle moment to round out Messi’s career on the highest stage of football. While concrete details of Messi’s contract with Inter Miami haven’t been released, these details about how the deal could be structured show how important a deal Messi could be commercially and financially for both Inter Miami and the MLS. The transfer period for the MLS opens on July 5, which is when Messi is expected to join Miami, and his first game is expected to be a Leagues Cup home game against Mexican side Cruz Azul on July 21 — a match for which all tickets are already sold out.


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