Inter Miami has finally announced the signing of Lionel Messi to confirm Major League Soccer’s worst kept secret.
Messi, considered one of the best players of all time, has signed for the club after his departure from Paris Saint-Germain.
His arrival is a major blow to David Beckham’s Miami and MLS, and Messi’s arrival is expected to take the sport to new heights in the United States.
The 36-year-old, a World Cup winner with Argentina, announced his move to MLS last month, but fans finally got to see him in an Inter Miami jersey on Saturday.
He turned down a more lucrative offer from Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, while a return to boyhood club Barcelona proved financially impossible.
Inter Miami finally announced the arrival of Lionel Messi to confirm the worst kept secret in MLS
The 36-year-old, considered one of the greatest of all time, led Argentina to World Cup glory
The arrival of Messi, 36, represents a major blow for David Beckham’s Inter Miami and for MLS
Messi, who won four Champions League titles with Barca and scored 672 goals in 778 appearances for the club, is believed to have been offered a $60 million-a-year contract by Inter Miami that includes new deals with adidas and Manzana.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will bank money from adidas jersey sales and Apple MLS subscriptions, while the deal is also said to include a option that could see him become part owner of the club.
Messi will work with Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino in Miami, having previously played with the veteran Barca coach and the Argentina national team.
Former teammate Sergio Busquets has already followed Messi to Miami, with the two expected to unveil themselves on Sunday, while Jordi Alba is also close to joining the MLS squad.
Messi is expected to make his debut on July 21, when Inter Miami takes on Mexican team Cruz Azul.
Fans hope that Messi and Busquets can help transform the team’s fortunes in Major League Soccer.
Miami currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with just 18 points in 21 games.
That record leaves them 11 points out of last in the playoffs, with Messi set to be available for the last 12 games of the regular season.
Victoria Beckham shared clips of David painting a mural ahead of Lionel Messi’s arrival in Miami
The windows of the adidas flagship store in New York are filled with models of Messi
A banner reads “Welcome to Miami” above a photo of Messi and Inter Miami merchandise
Miami twice blew a lead in its most recent MLS game, against Wayne Rooney’s DC United team on Saturday night, to extend its winless streak to 10 games.
Nigel Robertha’s goal in the 77th minute prevented Miami from earning a vital victory. Inter have drawn three times in a row since Martino’s hiring was announced.
In New York, 1,300 miles away from Messi’s new Florida home, the windows of the adidas flagship store were full of mock-ups of MLS’s biggest star before the move was made official.
In images taken by DailyMail.com, the sportswear giant’s Broadway venue is covered in images of Messi wearing his new Inter Miami jersey, even before he has put it on himself.
Meanwhile, Beckham was recently filmed standing on a crane, painting a huge mural of Messi on the side of a building in Miami.
Messi has been enjoying a vacation before his arrival in Miami, relaxing in the Caribbean with his wife Antonela, before starting his new life in MLS.
There have been some suggestions that the 36-year-old could, even should, be given special treatment by officials.
Messi imagined himself enjoying the last days of his vacation before his life at Inter Miami begins
Messi and his wife Antonela (right) have shared photos during their break in the Caribbean
An MLS coach said the athletic that the Argentine should ‘get the (Michael) Jordan treatment’. (He) should receive all calls.’
But any ‘Jordan treatment’ could lead to MLS teams implementing their own version of the ‘Jordan rules’, which saw The Detroit Pistons concluded in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the best way to defend Jordan was to injure him and take him out of the game.
Meanwhile, Robert Sibiga, the 2021 MLS Referee of the Year, said: ‘This is not the level of David Beckham or Zlatan (Ibrahimovic). This is a different level.
He added: “The last thing you want to be is to be seen ruining the game or allowing players who have much less talent and experience to do something to a player like Lionel Messi.”