Barcelona had been confident of re-signing the 35-year-old from Paris Saint-Germain for much of 2023, with Messi’s father, Jorge, even stating that his son wanted to return to the club at which he scored a quite astonishing 672 goals in 778 appearances – both club records.
Messi had also been offered an eye-watering €400m-a-year deal to join Saudi Pro League team Al Hilal this summer – a figure far greater than the amounts being paid to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who joined Al Ittihad on Tuesday.
But it’s Miami and Major League Soccer where Messi will be plying his trade next, with a blockbuster announcement from the player himself in a joint interview with Mundo Deportivo and SPORT confirming he will head to Florida to continue his career.
“I made the decision that I am going to go to Miami,” Messi said. “I still haven’t closed it one hundred percent. I’m missing some things but we decided to continue the path.”
“I had offers from other European teams but I didn’t even evaluate them because my idea was to go to Barcelona. If the Barcelona thing didn’t work out, then leaving European football, much more after winning the World Cup, was what I needed. Finishing my career on this side and living the United States league in a different way, enjoying day to day much more but with the same responsibility of wanting to win and always doing things well, but with more peace of mind.”
Inter Miami quickly followed up the release of Messi’s interview in Spain with a video of their own, poking fun at the reports in recent months sceptical of MLS and linking him with Barcelona or a move to the Saudi Pro League.
It was earlier reported on Wednesday that MLS and Inter Miami had sensed that there was an opportunity to poach Messi from under the noses of Barcelona, largely due to the financial packaged which involved payments from the league’s largest commercial partners in Apple and adidas.
This will be the first time Messi has ever played senior football outside of Europe, having enjoyed 17 years in the Barcelona first-team before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain – where he won Ligue 1 in two consecutive seasons.
Crucially, however, Messi wasn’t able to lead PSG to a first Champions League success, despite playing in a dream front three alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.