Lionel Messi on Wednesday announced that he intends to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami as a free agent after parting ways with French champions Paris Saint-Germain and snubbing a lucrative contract offer in Saudi Arabia.
Messi, who played his final game for PSG over the weekend, was also linked with a return to Barcelona, but the Spanish club have had their hands tied due to LaLiga’s financial fair play rules.
“I made the decision that I’m going to go to Miami,” Messi said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo and Sport newspapers.
“I still haven’t closed it 100%. I’m still missing a few things, but we decided to go ahead. If Barcelona didn’t work out, I wanted to leave Europe, get out of the spotlight and think more about my family.”
Messi, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar in December and has earned a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, won the Ligue 1 title in his two seasons with PSG, as well as the French Super Cup in 2022.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to go to Barca, it was time to go to the U.S. league to experience football in a different way and enjoy the day-to-day,” Messi said.
“Obviously with the same responsibility and desire to want to win and to always do things well. But with more peace of mind.”
The MLS said it was pleased that Messi intends to join Inter Miami this summer.
Messi had wanted to go to a club where he could eventually have an ownership stake, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters this week. He also wanted to maximize his existing deal with Adidas and MLS’s relationship with Apple.
MLS earns a flat fee of around $250 million per year from Apple until it reaches a certain threshold of subscriptions, after which point it will earn a share of the revenue from those subscriptions.
Messi’s move to MLS is expected to drive viewers to the Apple TV streaming platform, as the world’s most recognizable soccer player.
The forward was also linked with a move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad after he received a formal offer.
The Gulf country has been looking to bring the game’s biggest players to its league and was successful in persuading Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al Nassr soon after the World Cup. French striker Karim Benzema joined Al Ittihad this week.
Inter Miami is co-owned by former England captain David Beckham, who was one of the first major European stars to move to the United States to play in the MLS, winning the MLS Cup twice with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Messi will have his work cut out in Miami, however, with the club rock bottom of the Eastern Conference standings — six points from ninth place, the final spot which would give them a chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
The team sacked coach Phil Neville last week after a dismal run of 10 defeats and five wins this season, a stark contrast to last season when they finished sixth and qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs.