Sit down, dear reader, and let me tell you a story, a tale of how one man expanded his fame and glory.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the world who doesn’t know the Argentinian soccer megastar.
Perceived by many to be the greatest player to ever step on the pitch, the World Cup champion took his talents away from French club Paris Saint-Germain in 2023, joined David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF and instantly became the star of Major League Soccer.
But was Inter Miami successful in Messi’s first year? What are the chances the Herons may soon win their first MLS Cup?
Messi’s arrival on U.S. soil sent a message to the rest of the soccer world. America’s domestic league finally has legit soccer talent …. kind of.
The MLS is still far behind the Big Five (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A) when it comes to financial gain, but it’s not for a lack of trying.
Thierry Henry joining the New York Red Bulls in 2010, Zlatan Ibrahimovic being signed by the LA Galaxy in 2016, Wayne Rooney joining DC United in 2018 and, of course, David Beckham joining the Galaxy in 2007 were just some of the biggest ploys by MLS teams to increase the popularity of the North American league.
Despite their efforts, MLS consistently finished behind the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL when it came to popularity and revenue in the United States.
Henry, Ibrahimovic, Rooney and Beckham were certainly stars, but they, along with most non-American players joining the MLS, were far past their peak.
Then Messi stepped in.
After leaving his boyhood club, FC Barcelona, in 2021, Messi became part of a three-headed dragon at Paris Saint-Germain with French superstar Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian legend Neymar. Certainly, Messi joining this dream team would launch the French squad to the peak of Europe.
In the 2021-22 season, PSG handily won Ligue 1, but was eliminated from the Coupe de France and the Champions League in the round of 16.
The next year, PSG barely won Ligue 1, taking their domestic league by a single point, but the goal of winning the Coupe de France and the Champions League was still in sight … until the curse of the round of 16 arose once more. The red-and-blues were eliminated in the round of 16 of both tournaments. Again.
There were a multitude of reasons Paris Saint-Germain could never pull together and win more trophies. Injuries and managerial issues created a difficult environment for the team to truly gel.
But despite the issues, it was safe to say that Messi in Paris wasn’t a perfect fit.
Rumors flew about where the superstar would play next. Some reporters theorized a reunion with FC Barcelona was in the cards. Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal reportedly offered the star anywhere from $500 million to $1.5 billion to play in the Middle East.
But instead, the greatest of all time took his talents to South Beach.
While stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar took deals worth over $100 million in Saudi Arabia, Messi turned down the chance at the largest contract in soccer history and joined Inter Miami CF.
Days later, two FC Barcelona stars, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, also agreed to contracts with the Herons.
The result? Instant impact.
Before Messi, Inter Miami had gone 5-3-14 in MLS play and was in the middle of an 11-game losing streak.
After his arrival, Inter Miami ended the year with a respectable 4-4-4 record through the end of the MLS season, but it was the Leagues Cup where the club would finally lift their first trophy.
Messi finished his first season in America with 11 goals in 14 games, 10 of which came in the Leagues Cup.
The message was clear. He had made the right choice.
The job is far from finished. Messi has two more years on his contract, and Inter Miami’s just begun the hunt for more trophies. In 2024, they’ll be looking to defend their Leagues Cup title while competing in tournaments like the U.S. Open Cup.
Good thing they have the greatest of all time spearheading their squad.
Messi is back to lifting trophies again, but his journey’s not over — there’s an MLS Cup to win.