Messi announced on Wednesday that he will sign with Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, choosing the United States as his next destination following a meeting in Barcelona or a blockbuster deal to play in Saudi Arabia.
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Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, widely regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time, has turned down a very lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia and opted instead to ply his trade with Major League Soccer club Inter Miami.
The blockbuster announcement it came after months of intense speculation over whether the 35-year-old could return to his beloved Barcelona, the Spanish club he moved to as a teenager, but reluctantly left in 2021. However, it always seemed unlikely, given the club’s long-standing problem of dealing with La Liga’s financial fair play rules.
It was widely believed that Messi, who led Argentina to victory in last year’s world championshipwould opt to play for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia after parting ways with French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi unexpectedly said on Wednesday that he has chosen the Miami franchise.
“I decided to go to Miami,” Messi revealed in an interview with Spanish news portals Mundo Deportivo and Sport.
“I’m still not 100% done. There are still a few things missing, but we decided to move on. If it didn’t work out for Barcelona, I wanted to leave Europe, get out of the limelight and think more about my family.”
Messi said he felt the time had come to join the American league, “to experience football in a different way and enjoy the everyday.”
And he added: “Of course, with the same responsibility and desire to win and always do things well. But with more calmness.”
The deal means the global football icon will not follow arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo and France forward Karim Benzema in moving to Saudi Arabia.
The Middle Eastern Gulf country, which is fast becoming a major player in the sporting world, had achieved something of a coup just 24 hours earlier notification shock merger between the spin-off LIV Golf Circuit and the US-based PGA Tour.
Messi’s rejection and reported The $400 million-a-year contract, a colossal sum even by football standards and eye-popping, dealt a blow to Riyadh’s ambitions to lure the sport’s biggest players to its top flight.
Last month Messi’s father and agent Jorge Messi, denied speculation that his son was set to move to Saudi Arabia after French media reported it was a “done deal”.
It comes after PSG suspended Messi, who was unveiled as the oil-rich country’s tourism ambassador last year, for taking a trip to Saudi Arabia and missing training as a result.
“If it was a question of money, I would go for it [Saudi] Arabia or somewhere else where they offered me a lot of money,” Messi said.
DRV PNK Stadium where professional soccer team Inter Miami plays matches on June 7, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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One of the owners of Inter Miami, Jorge Mas, preceded Messi’s announcement by sharing a photo of his jersey in silhouette, fueling speculation of the player’s imminent arrival in Florida’s South Beach.
“We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated his intention to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer in the summer,” MLS he said in a statement, noting that some of the finer details still need to be ironed out.
“While work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest football players of all time to our league,” the league said.