Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar, said Wednesday that he would join Major League Soccer team Inter Miami.
“I made the choice to go to Miami. I still haven’t finished it completely. “I’m missing a few things, but we’ve decided to continue my journey there,” the seven-time global player of the year stated in an interview published by the Spanish sites SPORT and Mundo Deportivo.
The huge revelation comes only months after Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the World Cup – the honour given to the greatest player in the competition – and led his side to World Cup victory in December. It also came after rumours of a big agreement in the Middle East and a return to his beloved Barcelona.
Instead, Messi has followed in the footsteps of other superstars who have relocated to the MLS.
The transfer to David Beckham’s Inter Miami is not altogether unexpected. Beckham is a big admirer of Messi and even joked, “You never know what can happen in football,” when asked whether he’d ever sign the Argentine.
Earlier Wednesday, Inter Miami’s CEO and managing owner posted a mysterious image of a No. 10 jersey with a partly exposed last name – exposing just the last two characters, “SI.”
MLS said that a contract with Messi had not been reached, but that the potential of Messi playing in the league was welcomed.
“We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer,” the league said in a statement released on Wednesday. “Although work remains to be done in order to finalise a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our League.”
CNN has contacted Inter Miami, Messi’s agent, and David Beckham, who is part of Inter Miami’s ownership team.
Messi’s future move has been a source of discussion since he announced his exit from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), where he played his last game on Saturday.
According to an earlier BBC story by sports expert Guillem Balague, Messi is expected to reject an offer from Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
Messi departed Barcelona in sorrow in 2021 after the club’s financial mismanagement, aggravated by the Covid-19 epidemic, rendered it unable to provide a new deal to its icon.
According to FC Barcelona, the player’s father and agent, Jorge Messi, told club president Joan Laporta on Monday of his son’s desire to join Inter Miami despite an offer from a European club.
According to the statement, Laporta “understood and respected Messi’s decision to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subjected to in recent years.”
Laporta and Messi decided to collaborate on promoting a “tribute from Barça fans to honour a footballer who has been, is and always will be beloved by Barça.”
Messi won two Ligue 1 championships in his two seasons with PSG but was unable to assist the club win the Champions League for the first time in its history.
Messi’s time at PSG was cut short as he was punished for an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia, for which he subsequently apologised.
On Saturday, PSG suffered a 3-2 loss at home to Clermont Foot in his farewell game for the club.
Messi’s last season in Paris was a disaster. Despite his 21 goals and 20 assists in all competitions, which helped PSG win the Ligue 1 championship, the club failed to go beyond the last 16 of the Champions League, the trophy the club most desires.
Some PSG supporters booed Messi during his farewell match, as well as in a number of previous games.
Messi enjoyed 17 trophy-laden years at Barcelona before his two-season tenure at PSG, when he went from schoolboy to sports hero.
Messi’s father said earlier this week that a return to Barcelona would be his preferred choice.
In a recent interview with CNN Sport, Messi said that he would continue to play as long as he enjoys it and that, at 35, he has a few more years to contribute.
“I’m just looking for a way to keep having fun and playing, which is what has always made me happy,” he added.