Lionel Messi is the newest player for Inter Miami of MLS. (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Welcome to America, Lionel Messi.
The 2022 World Cup winner from Argentina officially joined Inter Miami on Saturday after the team announced it on social media.
Messi left Paris Saint-Germain after two seasons and was rumored to either sign with a Saudi Arabian club or reunite with his old La Liga club, Barcelona. But instead, Messi picked Inter Miami in a stunning decision that could elevate the MLS’ notoriety in soccer. He didn’t come alone, either — Miami reportedly added former Messi teammate Sergio Busquets and hired former Barcelona and Argentina manager Gerardo Martino.
Despite the addition of a seven-time Ballon d’Orr winner, Miami might not jump immediately to the top of the MLS standings. The club currently sits 15th in the Eastern Conference with just 18 points — tied with the last-place Colorado Rapids of the Western Conference — through 21 games with 5-3-13 record.
Messi and Busquets will undoubtably help the product on the field, but it might not be a quick-fix turnaround fans expect from one of the greatest global soccer players of all-time.
But none of that really matters right now. Inter Miami landed Messi, and that move should eventually lead to some interesting moments for MLS for however long Messi plays in America. And Messi has already started to acclimate to life in Florida, like when he went food shopping at Publix, a southern grocery chain.
Not many professional athletes in Miami can casually walk around in public without being flooded by fans. Maybe they’re being respectful, or maybe soccer just isn’t big enough in the United States — yet — for someone of Messi’s stature to gain LeBron-like attention. Perhaps Messi will change that.