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Lionel Messi officially joins Inter Miami as Designated Player


The wait is over, Lionel Messi is officially an Inter Miami player.

Messi officially joined the club on Saturday, signing a Designated Player contract through the 2025 MLS season, Inter Miami announced. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and 2022 FIFA World Cup winner is eligible to make his Herons debut on July 21 in Leagues Cup play at Liga MX side Cruz Azul.

“I’m very excited to start this next step in my career with Inter Miami and in the United States,” said Messi. “This is a fantastic opportunity and together we will continue to build this beautiful project. The idea is to work together to achieve the objectives we set, and I’m very eager to start helping here in my new home.”

Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal reportedly offered Messi a massive $300 million per year deal, which could’ve seen him reunited with longtime La Liga rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Professional League. However, Messi chose Miami, which he already owns property in.

The 35-year-old recently helped PSG capture the Ligue 1 crown in 2022-23, registering 21 goals and 20 assists across all competitions.

Messi previously starred for Barcelona, racking up 672 goals and 303 assists in 778 combined appearances for the La Liga club. Messi lifted 35 major trophies during his time at Barcelona, winning four UEFA Champions League titles and 10 La Liga crowns.

“We are overjoyed that the greatest player in the world chose Inter Miami CF and Major League Soccer, and his decision is a testament to the momentum and energy behind our League and our sport in North America,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “We have no doubt that Lionel will show the world that MLS can be a League of Choice for the best players in the game. We look forward to seeing his debut for Inter Miami in our Leagues Cup tournament later this month.”

Messi’s move is the latest major acquisition by MLS over the league’s history. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Lorenzo Insigne, and David Beckham are just some of the key names that have made the move from Europe to MLS at the latter stages of their professional careers.

Inter Miami will desperately need Messi to hit the ground running if it wants to propel itself up the Eastern Conference standings. The Herons sit last in the East, 11 points out of the final playoff spot.

Messi’s former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are reportedly set to join him in Miami later this summer in separate deals.


  1. This upcoming Leagues Cup is going to be fascinating and it’s likely to be (finally!) an apples-to-apples comparison of MLS and Liga MX…and a test if the concept of soccernomics holds water. The prevailing wisdom has been that Liga MX is still a better league than MLS…but soccernomics says that MLS actually passed Liga MX around 2021. The top-spending team in either league is currently Toronto FC at $21 million, edging out Liga MX’s UANL, which spent $20 million. So okay, says the skeptic: that’s comparable, and Toronto’s a train-wreck money pit anyway. But what is no longer comparable is that the bottom nine squads in Liga MX would all rank dead-last in spending if they were in MLS. And Liga MX spent more than $200 million in total payroll less than MLS is spending in 2023. Financial heft between the two leagues is no longer even remotely close.

    Liga MX has 18 teams and the league as a whole paid out $189 million total in the 2022-2023 season, which averages to a $10.5 million payroll per club.

    MLS has 29 teams and is paying out $397 million in total salaries for the 2023 season…which averages out to $13.6 million per club.

    The second thing that immediately attracts the eye is the dramatic rate of increased spending in MLS. In 2020 the league had 26 teams and spent $238 million, ($9.1 million per club), in 2021 the league added another club in Austin FC but spending spiked to $310 million ($11.5 million per club), in 2022 it spiked again to $380 million between 28 clubs ($13.5 million per club). 2023’s increase to $397 million between 29 squads and $13.6 million per team was actually the most tepid rate of increase in more than six years.

    Compare that to ten years ago. In 2013, MLS spent just $84 million, divided between 19 teams…or $4.4 million per squad, and no squad in MLS had yet passed the $10 million threshold.

    In contrast, in 2013 Liga MX had the same 18 teams…and spent $222 million, or $12.3 million per club. Or $34 million less than the league spent last year.

    So Liga MX rosters have actually gotten worse in the last decade…which strongly suggests at least part of what’s been behind El Tri’s steady decline. MLS, in comparison, has seen an almost fivefold increase in total spending and a threefold increase in per-team spending.

    Another factoid of interest: MLS teams have been further disadvantaged in prior CONCACAF Champions League matchups because Liga MX squads are in midseason form; MLS squads come into Champions League right out of preseason. With the Leagues Cup, that’s going to be reversed. Liga MX teams haven’t played since May.

    The TLDR version is: Liga MX teams might be in for a rather rude surprise in this tournament. It’ll be fascinating to see if what we’re seeing on the ledger sheets and scheduling plays out on the field. At some point you figure it almost has to.

    • It will be interesting to see the strategies different clubs use. I don’t know that everyone is going to go all in.

    • I posted this before but I’m not seeing it so if it doubles I apologize.
      I’ll be interested to see how many clubs play to win in the group stage. I think some MLS teams will use it to rest players ahead of the push to the playoffs. Some might use it as a chance to try new players or tactics. LigaMx just restarted their season. Some bottom table teams might go all in to salvage their seasons (Inter Miami).

    • Right now most people in Mexico have no desire to watch this leagues cup. Add to the fact Mexican television didn’t try to buy any rights to televise it.

      The American side has been pushing this leagues cup. I think this may turn out to be the only season we see this cup with all teams Playing.

      You have to assume a lot of the MLS teams will be having one eye on keeping their players healthy for an MLS playoff push and the playoffs themselves by rotating new players in. Which will water down this leagues cup.

      I for one don’t understand having this tournament like this. You have MLS teams playing each other again in another tournament? I’m not really interested in this leagues cup tournament to be honest.

  2. Nice. Miami also just signed young talented attacker Facundo Farias from Colon. Miami may not make the playoffs this season but look out next season with Busquets, Alba, Messi, Farias, Cremansci and Co.


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