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Lionel Messi has confirmed he is joining MLS side Inter Miami.

Messi revealed news of his move to the United States in an interview with Barcelona-based publications Mundo Deportivo and Sport.

He said: “I’ve made the decision that I’m going to Miami. It’s still not a done deal 100 per cent. I’m missing a few things but we’ve decided to keep going down the path.

“If the Barcelona thing didn’t work out, I wanted to leave Europe, leave the spotlight and focus more on my family.

“I had a lot of hope that I’d be able to come back (to Barcelona), but after living what I lived through and the exit that I had (from Barcelona), I didn’t want to come back to be in the same situation: to wait and see what was going to happen or leave my future in the hands of another person.”

MLS confirmed Messi’s impending arrival by releasing a statement to confirm his intentions.

It read: “We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer. Although work remains to finalise a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league.”

Barcelona wished Messi well ahead of his move to the United States.

The Spanish side said: “On Monday, June 5, Jorge Messi, the player’s father and representative, informed club Ppesident Joan Laporta of the player’s decision to join Inter Miami, despite having been presented with a proposal from Barca, in consideration of the desire of both FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi for him to once again wear blaugrana.

“President Laporta understood and respected Messi’s decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years.

“Both Joan Laporta and Jorge Messi also agreed to work together to promote a proper tribute from Barca fans to honour a footballer who has been, is, and always will be beloved by Barca.”

The Athletic reported on Tuesday that MLS and Inter Miami were solidifying details around the potential signing of the 35-year-old.

Messi left Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season after his two-year contract with the Ligue 1 side expired. The World Cup winner, as reported earlier this week, had wanted his future to be resolved in the coming days.

Barcelona, whom Messi left to join PSG in the summer of 2021, had repeatedly expressed interest in re-signing the Argentina star.

The Catalan club also received approval from La Liga for their financial viability plan on Tuesday, allowing them to register new contracts and sign players, but significant financial hurdles remained at the Camp Nou as far as a Messi return was concerned.

Messi had also received a proposal from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, which had been on the table for several months and could have seen the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner command around €400 million a year.

The Gulf state announced huge reforms to its domestic league on Monday, prompting a fresh drive to lure high-profile names. Cristiano Ronaldo, once Messi’s great rival at Real Madrid, joined Al Nassr in January and Karim Benzema has just signed for Al Ittihad.

But The Athletic reported back in October that Inter Miami were increasingly confident in a pursuit that has spanned several years.

Messi would arguably be the most high-profile acquisition in the history of MLS and represent a huge coup as the United States gears up to jointly host the 2026 World Cup.

When will Messi move to Miami?

Analysis by Paul Tenorio, Felipe Cardenas and Pablo Maurer

The question of when Messi makes his debut remains very much up in the air. The secondary transfer window for MLS opens up on July 5, which means that is the first day Messi would be available.

Miami has away games on July 8 and July 15 before playing at home on July 21 and July 25 in the Leagues Cup, MLS’s new venture with Liga MX.

Should Miami advance out of that group stage, they would have more Leagues Cup games. Their next MLS home game is not until August 20, at home against Charlotte FC.

They then play on the road at New York Red Bulls before welcoming Nashville SC to Ft. Lauderdale on August 30.

One source briefed on league discussions floated that the Leagues Cup game against Cruz Azul on July 21 could see Messi make his debut. Tickets for that game have since sold out.

Other sources have suggested Messi would wait to debut in regular-season MLS play, which would keep him off the field until late August.

The decision undoubtedly will have a huge impact on fans who already started snatching up tickets for the games beginning with that July 8 road match in D.C.

How are MLS and Inter Miami enticing Messi?

MLS’s offer to Messi involves contributions from the league’s two biggest commercial partners.

Multiple sources involved in or briefed on the high-level league discussions said earlier this week that MLS and Apple have discussed offering Messi a share of the revenue generated by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass, the league’s streaming package on Apple TV+. Both sides view Messi’s potential involvement in Major League Soccer as a boon; Apple and MLS signed a 10-year, $2.5billion agreement this spring. On Tuesday, Apple revealed that a four-part docuseries chronicling Messi’s five World Cup appearances would stream on Apple TV+.

AppleTV’s verified Twitter account tweeted the word ‘Miami’ on Wednesday, before the tweet was deleted.

Adidas, which is among MLS’ largest corporate sponsors, has prepared its own potential arrangement to entice Messi to the United States, multiple sources briefed on those plans told The Athletic on Tuesday. Messi is being offered a profit-sharing agreement with the sportswear giant, those sources said, which would involve the player receiving a cut of any increase in Adidas’ profits resulting from his involvement in MLS.

Adidas has partnered with MLS since the league’s inception in 1996. The two sides renewed their partnership earlier this year, signing a six-year, $830million extension that runs through 2030. The German manufacturer supplies kits to all 29 MLS teams and also designs the league’s official match ball and is the league’s official footwear sponsor.

Messi himself has a long-standing relationship with Adidas, which started in 2006. In 2017, he signed a lifetime footwear sponsorship deal with the company.

Inter Miami — the lowdown

Inter Miami were established in 2018 and have been contesting MLS matches since 2020.

They are owned by brothers Jorge and Jose Mas alongside former England captain David Beckham, who played MLS football with LA Galaxy between 2007 and 2012 after more than a decade at Manchester United and four years at Real Madrid.

Inter Miami currently play at the 18,000-seater DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, but permission has been granted for construction to begin on Miami Freedom Park, a $1billion (£860m) stadium complex that will give Inter Miami a spectacular home.

The club endured a tumultuous period post-launch as they entered MLS during the COVID-19 pandemic and were later punished for breaking budget rules.

Their challenging spell has continued this term, with the franchise bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and currently seeking a new manager after sacking Phil Neville.

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(Photo: Getty Images)



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