Thursday, February 22, 2024

How Significant Is Messi’s Move to Inter Miami for the MLS?

When his contract ends with PSG on June 30, Lionel Messi will sign for Inter Miami to play in the MLS in 2023. The Argentine had numerous offers from clubs in Europe and a lucrative one to join the Saudi Pro League, but he has opted for a move to Miami.

The 35-year-old is considered by many to be the greatest player to ever feature in the sport. He arrives in the MLS at the back end of his career, however, he has shown over the last 12 months that he remains one of the leading forwards in the world.

Messi is a player that football fans in the MLS are going to be desperate to watch this season, not just Inter Miami fans, but also supporters of opposition teams. Attendances in the league are likely to improve when the former Barcelona player is involved.

The MLS will also be hoping to see football fans around the world stream their matches in 2023. They recently signed a deal with Apple which will see the streaming platform Apple TV+ host their matches on a ten-year deal.

Record Seven Ballon d’Or Wins

Messi arrives in the USA as a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. He last won the award at the end of 2021, going two clear of his rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has also broken many UEFA records in his career.

The new Inter Miami player will be hoping to extend his tally of goals in the USA. He moves to his new club having scored 715 goals in 885 competitive games in his career. Messi will be the leading figure in his side’s attack. As of the 18th of June, at the odds Betway is offering, Los Angeles FC are the favourites at 4/1 for the trophy this season. However, should the Argentine get Inter Miami off to a fast start, they may soon become championship contenders.

Messi’s Argentina compatriot Javier Morales currently coaches Inter Miami. The two-time MLS All-Star won the MLS Cup as a player with Real Salt Lake in 2009. This is his first head coaching role since he retired as a player in 2018.

World Cup Success for Argentina

One of the greatest moments in Messi’s career came last December when Argentina defeated France in the FIFA World Cup final. It was the first time in his career that Messi had lifted the World Cup trophy.

Messi made his debut for the Argentina senior team in 2005. He waited until 2021 to win a major trophy with his country when they prevailed in Copa America that year. Just a year later, they were successful in Qatar where they defeated Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia and then France in the knockout stages of the tournament.

The next World Cup takes place in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2026. Messi has said it’s unlikely that he will feature in that tournament, however, he plans to continue playing for his country for now. If he remains fit and injury-free, an appearance at the event cannot be ruled out.

Comparisons to Pele

Messi’s move to the MLS is being compared to when Pele moved to the United States. The CBF forward shone for Brazil, particularly at the World Cup where he is responsible for some of the tournament’s best moments. He scored over 700 goals for club and country in a glittering career.

The Brazilian legend joined the New York Cosmos in 1975. He played three years in the North American Soccer League, playing 107 games and scoring 66 goals. The highlight of his spell in the USA came in his final season when he helped his club win the championship.

Some pundits are claiming Messi is the biggest name to move to a North American league since Pele. If he can grow the league around the world like the Brazil international was able to do, it will be a huge success, not just for Inter Miami, but for all franchises in the MLS.

Messi is not expected to play straight away from Inter Miami as he is currently on international duty for Argentina. His debut for the MLS franchise could come in August, with their home tie with Charlotte the most likely fixture on August 21.