When Lionel Messi announced his future June 7 in an exclusive interview with Mundo Deportivo and SPORT — two Barcelona-based sports newspapers — few soccer fans expected this transfer.
This is not unlike summer 2021, when few people expected him to leave FC Barcelona, where he had played for nearly his entire professional career.
When Barça’s president Joan Laporta announced that Messi had to leave the club due to financial problems — even though only two months prior he had essentially guaranteed that Messi would stay —the Argentinian signed a two-year contract with the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, or PSG.
When the contract came to an end this June, he chose not to renew it. Why?
There are multiple reasons for Messi’s decision. One of them is his conflict with PSG.
After the World Cup last December, in which Argentina defeated France in the final, Messi was frequently booed by local PSG fans. Their allegiance seems to lie more with the national team and superstar Kylian Mbappé than with the club.
The last straw came in early May, when the club suspended Messi for two weeks due to an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia. The enraged club ultras gathered in the club’s headquarters to protest, demanding Messi’s departure.
Despite everything, Messi apologized in a video. About a month later, he decided to leave the club. On June 3, after playing his last match for PSG, he bid a farewell message to all the fans via the club website: “I would like to thank the club, the city of Paris and its people for these two years. I wish you all the best for the future.”
After his leaving, rumors were quick to choose Messi’s next club, from his former club FC Barcelona to a club in Major League Soccer, or MLS, and Saudi Arabia.
In his exclusive interview with SPORT, Messi admitted that he did, in fact, want to return to Barcelona, but just couldn’t do it.
“But, on the other hand, after having lived through what I lived through, after the exit I had … I didn’t want to go through the same situation again and have to wait to see what was going to happen. I didn’t want to leave my future in the hands of others,” Messi said to SPORT.
Finally, in the same interview, he made the announcement.
“I have taken the decision to go to (Inter) Miami. It’s still not closed 100%, there are a few final details left, but that’s the decision we have made,” Messi said.
Inter Miami is an American professional soccer club based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The club was established in 2018 and began to play in MLS in the 2020 season, and its co-owner and current president is the legendary soccer player David Beckham. In the present season, it ranks at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with 15 points.
The effect was instant — after announcing his decision, the club’s Instagram followers spiked, going from one million to more than five million in the span of 24 hours. Now, the club has more followers than any NFL, MLB, NHL or MLS team.
But why Inter Miami?
According to Messi, after winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, there was an opportunity to explore football in a different way, in the American League — with more “peace of mind.”
Or, maybe, it’s just because of Miami’s excellent weather and beaches.
Either way, welcome to Miami, Messi.