Lionel Messi is coming to Major League Soccer.
The Argentine superstar ended months of speculation about his future by agreeing to join Inter Miami on Wednesday, according to transfer insider Fabrizio Romano.
Messi, 35, will become a free agent when his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires later this month. The Ligue 1 champions said last week that he would not renew his deal after two seasons in the French capital.
Barcelona and Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal have been heavily linked with Messi for some time. Al-Hilal reportedly tabled a more lucrative offer than Inter Miami, but Messi rejected their approach in favor of the MLS club.
It’ll be the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s first experience playing senior club football outside of Europe following a decorated career at Barca and a brief stint at PSG. He’s expected to discuss the reasons for his decision imminently. Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, is due to arrive in Miami on Wednesday night, Romano adds.
There was growing optimism in recent days about Messi striking a deal after MLS officials were informed his decision came down to two teams, Inter Miami and Barcelona, after he ruled out a move to Saudi Arabia, according to a report from The Athletic on Tuesday. Playing in the Saudi Pro League reportedly wasn’t a consideration for Messi.
Inter Miami, sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, weren’t alone in their quest to sign the most successful player in football history. Adidas and Apple, Major League Soccer’s top commercial partners, apparently contributed to getting Messi to the U.S.
Both companies are understood to have played a role in negotiations, with multiple sources telling The Athletic that MLS and Apple discussed offering Messi a portion of the revenue generated from new subscribers to the league’s streaming package on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. Apple also announced Tuesday that a four-part documentary about Messi’s five career World Cup appearances will be exclusively available on Apple TV+ this year.
Adidas’ bid to convince Messi to move to North America includes a profit-sharing agreement with the German sportswear company, per The Athletic. Messi will reportedly receive a share of increases in the company’s profits pertaining to his transfer to Inter Miami. Messi signed a lifetime footwear sponsorship deal with Adidas in 2017 after initially partnering with the company in 2006.
The Athletic also reports that Messi’s contract is expected to include an option to purchase a stake in an MLS club after he’s finished playing in the league. David Beckham had a similar clause in his deal with the LA Galaxy that allowed him to purchase an expansion team for the discounted fee of $25 million. He and a group of investors were announced as Inter Miami owners in 2014 before the club began play in 2020.
Al-Hilal were in the running to make Messi the latest superstar to join the Saudi Pro League after Cristiano Ronaldo’s and Karim Benzema’s arrivals. The club reportedly offered Messi a more lucrative deal than the contracts his ex-Real Madrid rivals received, which are each worth €200 million per season.
But Al-Hilal, one of four Saudi Pro League clubs taken over by the country’s Public Investment Fund earlier this week, recently became worried that Messi lost interest and accepted that they were out of the race to sign him on Wednesday, sources told ESPN.
Barcelona, meanwhile, have repeatedly expressed their desire to re-sign Messi after his 2021 exit. But Barcelona’s efforts to reunite with the 2022 World Cup winner appear to have fallen short due to the club’s constraints under Financial Fair Play rules, reports BBC Sport’s Guillem Balague.
Despite their best efforts to adjust their payroll and make a move for Messi financially viable under La Liga’s salary cap, the legendary forward didn’t want to wait any longer for Barca to get their house in order, according to ESPN.
Inter Miami, meanwhile, are without a permanent head coach after sacking Phil Neville last week amid the team’s disappointing season. Messi’s former Argentina coach, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, has held talks about possibly replacing Neville, The Athletic reports.
Messi could reportedly make his Inter Miami debut in the club’s Leagues Cup match against Mexican side Cruz Azul on July 21.
Inter Miami have just 15 points after 16 MLS games.