In January 2018, Inter Miami marked its entry as the 25th club in Major League Soccer, with former footballer, actor, and model David Beckham as its owner. On that day, Lionel Messi sent a congratulatory message to Beckham via Instagram, ending it with a promise that if needed, Beckham could give him a call in a few years. Beckham eventually made that call, and when Messi’s departure from PSG was confirmed, a bidding war ensued among teams vying to secure his talents. While Saudi Arabia dangled a lucrative offer, and Barcelona hoped to entice him back home, Messi surprised many by choosing the United States and Inter Miami as his new destination. So, what exactly did Miami offer him that Saudi Arabia and Barcelona couldn’t?
It’s not uncommon for footballers to join Major League Soccer towards the end of their careers. Legends such as Pele, Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, and even Messi’s idol, Johan Cruyff, moved to America as they neared retirement. However, Major League Soccer underwent a significant transformation with the arrival of David Beckham. Prior to Beckham’s involvement, the league struggled to attract big-name stars. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, players typically opted to return to their first clubs or retire outright, rarely considering American offers. Beckham’s arrival revitalized Major League Soccer, and he himself had been presented with an unprecedented contract by the LA Galaxy at the time. Yet, compared to his own contract, the offer presented to Messi by Beckham was truly exceptional.
Despite Messi repeatedly stating that money wasn’t the most important factor for him, and that honor mattered more, he wasn’t swayed by the Saudi Arabian financial offer. Similarly, he didn’t feel he received the level of respect he expected from Barcelona. The day after the contract was terminated, Barcelona made a grand announcement, suggesting that Messi chose Miami for the comfort it offered. After such a display towards their biggest star, what conditions led to his decision to join Inter Miami?
Inter Miami managed to fulfill both of Messi’s demands. While they didn’t shower him with the same financial resources as Saudi Arabia, they treated him with due respect. Therefore, the contract Messi signed with Inter Miami is not lacking in terms of money. It spans two and a half years, during which he will earn a salary of $150 million, equivalent to $60 million per year. In contrast, at PSG, he was earning $40 million annually. Consequently, Messi now stands as the highest-paid player in the history of Major League Soccer. However, the on-field salary is just a part of the deal with Inter Miami. A substantial portion of the agreement revolves around off-field ventures, with renowned global brands Adidas and Apple as partners.
Adidas already had a significant deal in place with Inter Miami and its owner, David Beckham. With Messi’s addition to the team, Adidas stands to benefit even more. From the moment Messi signed with Inter Miami until the end of his contract, Adidas will sell jerseys with Messi’s name, generating revenue that will go directly to Messi’s pocket. During his last two seasons at PSG, the club made €250 million from the sale of Messi jerseys alone, with a million jerseys sold in the first year. Adidas has often missed out on the profits from Messi’s jersey sales throughout his career, despite being his sponsor. This time, they seized the opportunity, and the numbers are expected to rise significantly at Inter Miami. Messi stands to earn at least €100-150 million in the next two years from this agreement alone.
Meanwhile, Apple has even grander plans. Last year, Apple TV signed a ten-year deal with Major League Soccer. As a result, viewers worldwide can only watch MLS matches through an Apple TV subscription. This means anyone who wants to watch Messi play will have to spend $10 on a subscription. Consequently, every individual purchasing an Apple TV subscription to watch the games will be directly contributing to Messi’s earnings. Apple didn’t stop there, as they’ve already produced a documentary about Lionel Messi’s World Cup journey. Another documentary is in the works, covering his journey with Inter Miami. A portion of the profits from these documentaries will also find its way into Messi’s bank account.
In joining Inter Miami, Messi has the opportunity to follow in David Beckham’s footsteps. At the end of his two-and-a-half-year contract, Messi will acquire a portion of Inter Miami’s publicly traded shares. This not only applies to Miami but also allows him to buy new clubs within the MLS at a nominal price if he wishes to do so in the future. Coincidentally, David Beckham currently owns Inter Miami.
To summarize, Messi’s decision to join Inter Miami goes beyond money, ownership, or the 2026 World Cup. With a salary of $150 million over two and a half years, along with partnerships with heavyweight brands Adidas and Apple, Messi’s financial prospects are significant. Additionally, he will enjoy six months of vacation and six months of football in the vibrant city of Miami, next to the allure of Hollywood and the beautiful Miami Beach. And let’s not forget that at the end of his career, Messi will have the ownership of a club. All things considered, Inter Miami presented Lionel Messi with an irresistible package that ticked all the boxes for his ambitions and aspirations.