The invitees arrived last Friday and were enveloped in mystery. Inter Miami promised it would be a ‘special event’ but they were rather thin on details. There was a date and a time and a location. But very little else. No guest list, no itinerary. Just the promise of ‘thrilling entertainment, lectures… and more’. Oh, and a name: ‘Unveiled.’
Perhaps the club was unwilling to tempt fate. Perhaps they thought that some people really do keep under a rock. But, really, they don’t need to bother. Sunday’s event was the sport’s worst-kept secret.
But still they waited, until Saturday night, to tell the world what they already knew: Lionel Messi is in town.
Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said, ‘Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said that I dreamed of bringing the best players in the world to this amazing city.
‘To help grow soccer in the USA and for the next generation the game we love so much… today that dream came true.’
Inter Miami has finally announced the arrival of Lionel Messi to confirm MLS’s worst-kept secret
Messi signed a contract with the club through the 2025 MLS season after his departure from PSG
The Argentine superstar was spotted getting used to life in Miami with his wife Antonella and three children – earlier this week.
Can you blame them for jumping the gun? Beckham is plastering the news on the side of a wall in Miami’s Wynwood district.
His co-owner Jorge Maas is buzzing with three-year plans for Sunday’s celebration in Fort Lauderdale.
Adidas used their flagship New York store on Broadway to sing all about it. The mayor of Fort Lauderdale is shooting an ad for the occasion.
Even the horse walks through his face.
It’s been six weeks since Messi first announced his move to Major League Soccer. As he robbed Saudi Arabia on the southern beaches and sent shockwaves across this vast country.
Technically the deal only became official last night. On Sunday, at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium, the 36-year-old will be presented to the world.
MLS has been waiting for a night like this since 2007, when media and fans descended on Los Angeles to welcome Beckham to the LA Galaxy. It created a ‘Hurricane’.
Hope? Messi’s move would be similarly transformative. As for Inter Miami, who remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
And for American soccer, which continues to swell ahead of the 2026 World Cup in North America.
Inter Miami plasters the news on the side of a wall in Miami’s Wynwood district
A sign reads ‘Bienvenido a Miami’ above an image of Messi and Inter Miami merchandise.
Messi set foot in Florida this week. He already has a $9 million apartment in Miami and, on Thursday evening, the family was spotted shopping at the supermarket chain Publix — mingling with supporters and picking up the bare essentials: boxes of cereal with General Mills Lucky Charms.
Inter Miami are counting their blessings even before Messi pulls on the shirt – the club now has more Instagram followers than any other MLS, hockey, baseball or American football team. An old boys reunion is underway in Peachey, South Florida. Sergio Busquets has followed his former Barcelona teammate. Jordi Alba has been tipped to join them.
No wonder Inter Miami started chasing the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner months before he even played a game. It’s no surprise that Beckham helped paint a Messi mural in Miami sometime last week. No wonder Adidas also cashed in on Messi’s mock-ups in their Broadway store early on.
On the ground in Fort Lauderdale, politicians and soccer figures are already feeling the shifting sands. Tickets for his debut, scheduled for next Friday, cost up to $10,000. Mas believes he can turn MLS into one of the top three leagues in the world.
There are also hopes that he can help remove structural barriers in U.S. soccer and unlock more opportunities for promising boys and girls. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis is already planning to give Macy the key to the city. He hasn’t kicked a ball yet. So no pressure. At least Messi has company.
It’s easy to join the dots between Sunday night’s unveiling and Beckham’s arrival in 2007. MLS rewrote their own rulebook to make that deal happen, and they pulled similar levers to lure Messi to Miami. Part of Beckham’s contract included the opportunity to own a team. He brought soccer to South Florida and now Messi – arguably the greatest player of all time – has joined him here.
Does any other sports team boast such a formidable commercial strike force? Mayor Trantalis burst out laughing when Mail Sport suggested his city had hit the jackpot. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t get any better!’
And yet, the question remains.
Messi, his wife Antonella and their three children went shopping at Publix in Palm Beach
The small print on Messi’s two-and-a-half-year contract is a little unclear. Mas says the 36-year-old will earn $50-60 million a year from Inter Miami. Then there are the additional commercial partnerships that have helped make this possible.
Messi has discussed revenue sharing with companies like Apple and Adidas. It is thought that he will earn a percentage of the money he makes on Adidas shirt sales and Apple’s MLS subscription.
The deal reportedly gives Messi a stake in his new club after he finishes playing.
The actual value of that clause depends, of course, on Inter Miami’s value.
Before he signed, they were worth $585m. That will change with his arrival and their upcoming move to a new $1 billion stadium.
Few knew about the ownership clause in Beckham’s contract 16 years ago. Then, MLS had to find creative ways to add the numbers. They created a ‘designated player’ (each team now has three slots), whose wages are not bound by salary cap rules.
But will he be worth all this investment? Messi won the World Cup eight months ago but, at 36, does he still have the same Midas touch? His recent spell at Paris Saint-Germain ended with boos and bad blood.
The arrival of Messi, 36, represents a major coup for David Beckham’s (centre) Inter Miami and MLS.
Beckham felt similar anger in LA – he was cheated and cheated by some supporters before taking the Galaxy back to the MLS.
Fans will be hoping Messi revives Miami’s fortunes. To help, an MLS coach suggested that he (Michael) should be given the ‘Jordan treatment’. In other words, favorable treatment from referees.
It remains to be seen whether officials follow that advice. But what is clear: Messi is moving to a different country than the one that welcomed Pele in the 1970s and the conveyor belt of stars ever since. Even since Beckham arrived, the league has expanded from 13 to 29 teams and its value has snowballed. In 2007, MLS’ TV contract was worth $8m a year. As of this season, Apple’s 10-year contract is worth $2.5 billion.
The country as a whole is more ready for the football icon. But some believe that makes the deal more risky. US Soccer doesn’t need a hero like it once did.
But that doesn’t make events like Sunday any less special.
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