Lionel Messi originally revealed he would be joining Major League Soccer six weeks ago. He sent shockwaves across the country when he snubbed Saudi Arabia for South Beach.
Actually, the agreement was only made official yesterday. The 36-year-old will be introduced to the public today at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium.
Since 2007, when Beckham’s fans and the media flocked to Los Angeles to welcome him to the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer has been anticipating a moment like this.
The expectation that Messi’s move will have a similar revolutionary effect for Inter Miami, which continues to finish last in the Eastern Conference, and for American football, which is expanding ahead of the North American 2026 World Cup.
This week, Messi arrived in Florida. He already owns a $9 million apartment in Miami, and on Thursday night, the family was seen shopping at Publix, mixing with supporters and buying basic items like boxes of Lucky Charms cereal from General Mills.
Even before Messi dons the jersey, Inter Miami is grateful because the team has more Instagram followers than any other MLS, NHL, MLB, or American football team. An old boys’ reunion is underway in South Florida as former teammate Sergio Busquets has followed him and Jordi Alba is also tipped to join them.
It makes sense that Jorge Mas, the owner of Inter Miami, started courting the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner even before Inter Miami had ever played. No wonder Beckham helped paint a Messi mural in Miami for a portion of the past week. It’s understandable that Adidas capitalised early by putting mock-ups of Messi all over their Broadway location.
Politicians and football players in Fort Lauderdale can already feel the shifting sands. Tickets for his debut, which is scheduled for next Friday, can cost up to $10,000. Jorge Mas thinks he can elevate the MLS to one of the top three leagues in the world.
There is also optimism that he will aid in the removal of structural hurdles in US football and open up more possibilities for talented boys and girls. Dean Trantalis, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, has already announced plans to hand Messi the keys to the city. He has yet to kick a ball. So, no pressure. At least Messi isn’t alone.
Connecting the parallels between Sunday night’s announcement and Beckham’s arrival in 2007 is simple. To make that trade work, MLS revised their own rules, and they used similar tactics to entice Messi to Miami. Beckham’s deal gave him the option to become a team owner. He introduced football to the area at the time, now Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time has joined him.