Lionel Messi has revealed his decision to join Major League Soccer (MLS) team Inter Miami, opting for the United States as his next destination instead of a potential return to Barcelona or a lucrative deal in Saudi Arabia.
Inter Miami, co-owned by former English footballer David Beckham and established in 2018, recently dismissed coach Phil Neville as the team languished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The 35-year-old Argentine forward spent the past two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and played his final game for the club on Saturday after leaving Barcelona in 2021, where he had spent the majority of his illustrious career.
MLS and Inter Miami confirmed the news on social media, with the American league noting that “work remains to finalize a formal agreement.”
“I have decided to go to Miami; although the deal is not completely sealed or there might be something left to do, we have chosen to continue our journey there,” Messi told Spanish newspapers Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barca, it’s time to experience football in a different way and enjoy my daily life more in MLS.”
Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, is expected to claim the prestigious individual award once again after leading Argentina to a World Cup victory in Qatar in December.
The football world eagerly awaited Messi’s decision following PSG’s confirmation that the playmaker, widely regarded as the greatest player in football history, would be departing.
Despite the allure of a Barcelona comeback and the prospect of immense wealth in Saudi Arabia, Messi chose to join MLS, particularly Miami, a city he has visited for holidays in the past.
“If it were solely about money, I would have gone to Saudi Arabia or elsewhere,” Messi stated. “It appeared to be a lot of money, but the truth is that my decision went in another direction, not driven by money.”
According to some reports, key MLS sponsors such as Adidas and Apple TV, who hold the league’s domestic broadcasting rights, may be contributing to his deal.
Turning 36 later this month, Messi is now set to conclude his club career away from the spotlight of top-tier European football.
While Messi expressed his desire to return to Barcelona, he feared a recurrence of the financial complications that prevented the Catalan club from extending his contract in 2021.
“I genuinely wanted to come back, I was really looking forward to it,” Messi continued.
“However, after experiencing what I went through, the exit I had… I didn’t want to face a similar situation and have to wait to see what would happen.
“I didn’t want to leave my future in the hands of others. I wanted to make my own decision for myself and my family.”
Messi also shared his plans to live in Barcelona again in the future and contribute to his former club in some capacity.
“I don’t know when or how, but hopefully, one day I can return and contribute something to the club,” he expressed.
Before that, Messi’s arrival will inject further momentum into the growth of football in the United States, just three years ahead of the co-hosted 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Having spent the last two seasons at the lavishly funded PSG, Messi will now join a more modest setup in Miami.
In their first game following Messi’s announcement, Miami secured a 1-0 victory over Alabama-based non-league side Birmingham Legion in the US Open Cup, advancing to the semi-finals.
A GLITTERING HISTORY
Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 13 after leaving his home country.
He became the greatest icon of the Catalan club, amassing a record 672 goals in 778 games and winning 35 trophies, including four Champions League titles and 10 La Liga championships.
Following his unexpected departure from Barcelona, Messi reunited with his former teammate Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a star-studded attacking trio at PSG. However, the club fell short of expectations during his tenure, clinching Ligue 1 only twice and suffering two heartbreaking exits in the Champions League, which led to frustration from the supporters directed towards Messi.