Why Messi’s Move to Inter Miami is a Good Thing

Eight-time Balon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi turned down a mouth-watering €550m per-year offer from a Saudi Arabian club, Al Hilal in the summer of 2023. His decision to switch to Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States was a deal breaker for Saudi Pro League’s restructuring and this interested a lot of people.

In a period when Middle Eastern clubs were attracting world class players from across Europe, Messi’s decision to shut his eyes towards a move to Saudi Arabia shocked the transfer world. As anticipations for a rekindled competition with long-time rival, Cristiano Ronaldo – who was already plying his trade with Al Nassr – remained interminable, it was surprising to see the Argentinian captain turn another way round.

While the reason behind his decision still remains unknown to majority, there is a need to evaluate the impacts of his presence in MLS, North American football and the next FIFA World Cup, United ’26, a showpiece to be co-hosted by the USA, Mexico & Canada.

Messi as a Face and Pulley in MLS

Just like Ronaldo’s impact on the Saudi Pro League, Messi’s move to MLS improves the value of the league, alongside the level of investment it attracts. With lesser money been injected into the MLS compared to SPL, clubs are expected to capitalize on Messi’s affiliation to their league, and presence in their stadia to maximize profit.

Being a league that cannot contend with the status of other footballing continents like Europe and South America, drawing in players from these regions are paramount. This escalates the value of the league, its level of entertainment, and intensity.

As co-owner of Inter Miami and legendary striker, David Beckham defines it

“He [Messi] saw this as a project, a legacy and I don’t think many players see that. They see the opportunity to play in different places, but Leo saw he could not just change the face of football in this country, he could inspire the next generation and there’s no better way of doing that than by walking on our pitch in Miami and having all of the kids talking about him, watching and learning. He’s also about making this game bigger and better in this country — he could do that, he will do that and he already has done that. It’s not just the whole of Miami talking about Leo, it’s the whole of America, the whole world.”

Messi as a drive for North American Clubs

His presence in the USA already sponsors belief in the heads of club administrators in the region. With many already believing that Messi’s presence in MLS can also be capitalized upon by neighbouring clubs, locally or on international level. Especially with the growing popularity of the Mexican league amidst the international community.

The expansion of the Leagues Cup, an annual tournament between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX to accommodate all teams from each league proves that the presence of the World Cup winner inspires changes, changes which might increase with time as the Inter Miami captain fulfills his contract.

It is not just about improving football in Miami as David Beckham believes, it is about the country and other clubs who are privileged to play Inter Miami in North America. After losing to Inter Miami in the League Cup final, Nashville SC midfielder, Dax McCarty rued the result of the match but looked forward to Messi’s presence in the country for many more years.

Having swapped shirts with Messi after the match, McCarty posted on X: “This night wasn’t a total loss.”

“The result is obviously a swift kick to the groin, but I couldn’t be prouder of our team and our city. Our response after the GOAT does GOAT things was awesome. So much character in this group. It hurts but we will be better for it. Plenty of good nights and memories to come.”

Believing that having to play against Messi is an extra motivation might just be what other clubs build on when preparing and presenting deals to players abroad and from McCarty’s perspective, it could be successful.

Messi as a Factor to Boost FIFA World Cup Viewership in USA

Perhaps the biggest drive that expedited Messi’s move to Inter Miami is the impending FIFA World Cup tournament poised to take place in 2026, co-hosted by USA, Mexico and Canada (United ’26).

Originally, football was not the most popular sport in the USA. Funnily enough, the football we all know is identified as ‘soccer’ in USA, therefore, the presence of an iconic face which can resonate the value of the sport amongst US fans is essential for a successful FIFA World Cup tournament organization.

Messi already is an ambassador for the Visit Saudi campaign, whether or not he plays in the country or not. Now, it makes more sense that he spreads his reach beyond the borders of the Middle East. Having already marked an era with his national team in Qatar, and given face to the brand, Visit Saudi, his exploits with Inter Miami spread far beyond his performances on the pitch.

A FIFA office opened in Miami months after Messi joined the team is also a testimony to how Messi’s presence in the club is boosting their world cup campaign ambition. After finalizing a lease in The Magic City and acquiring the office, a FIFA official commented; “As part of ongoing preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2026, set to be the largest and most exciting sporting event in the world, FIFA has opened an office in Miami.

Some wonder if Messi’s income at Inter Miami was better than what he had rejected from Al Hilal but the answer to this question is how exactly he earns. It is not a regular player-club relationship anymore, however, it is more like a shareholder-active participant relationship.

This is evident in his wage pattern, as he earns a percentage from Inter Miami’s broadcasting partnership with Apple TV. Now, he might not be milking the alluring millions in the Saudi Pro League, nevertheless, his brand power to exploit financial markets in American sports is one to admire.

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