Lionel Messi is coming to MLS. He’s signing with Inter Miami, and the agreement is worth up to $150 million over two-and-a-half years before additional compensation from MLS partners Adidas and Apple—plenty of scratch for grocery runs to Publix.
The Miami pact is the latest in a career of blockbuster paydays on and off the field. By the end of 2025, Messi’s career earnings will reach an estimated $1.6 billion, including playing salaries, bonuses and endorsements. His tally ranks among the five highest in the history of sports.
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Messi’s Miami deal is worth between $50 million and $60 million per year from his salary, signing bonus and equity in the team. It is on par with what the top earners in the NBA and NFL make in salary. Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic’s current deal is worth $55 million a year on average, while 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is at $52 million.
Yet, the structure is unique with the team equity component, a compensation lever not available to players in other leagues. Messi is expected to exercise his ownership stake in the franchise after he is done playing with Inter Miami. There is no subsidy from MLS as part of the agreement. There is an option for 2026 for Messi to stay in MLS when the U.S., Mexico and Canada will host the World Cup.
“I think it is the one major seminal moment in the sport in the history of this country,” Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said last month in a call with a small group of reporters. “I think there will always be a before and an after Messi when we talk about the sport in the United States.”
Messi earned more than $100 million a year in playing salary and bonuses while at Barcelona. His pre-tax salary at Paris Saint-Germain the past two seasons was roughly $70 million annually, including bonuses. Messi definitely left money on the table to come to MLS, as he could have earned a reported $400 million a year to play in the Saudi Professional League.
Mas insists Messi is not just here for the paycheck. “Look at the competitive nature of Lionel Messi,” Mas said. “He’s a killer, and Lionel Messi has come to this country to win, and a significant portion of our conversations have been on the sporting side.”
Messi was earning an estimated $60 million a year from his endorsement partners before his arrival in the U.S. He will have the ability to add to that tally through individual revenue-sharing deals with the league’s broadcast (Apple) and apparel (Adidas) partners. MLS owners are still in the dark on the details around those pacts. Messi already has a lifetime partnership with Adidas, and last month, Apple announced a four-part Messi documentary series was in the works.
If Messi can raise the global profile, it will directly benefit his own bank account, thanks to the revenue-sharing deals and team equity component in his contract. Sportico valued Inter Miami at $585 million last year, but it could be a $1 billion club once its new stadium, Miami Freedom Park, opens in 2025.
The Argentine has more than a dozen ongoing brand endorsements, with Adidas the most lucrative. Other partners include Budweiser, Mastercard, Pepsi, Saudi Arabia tourism and Socios. The brands benefit from Messi’s 480 million Instagram followers, second only to longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo at 597 million. Inter Miami’s Instagram account has had an 800% surge since news broke of his agreement. The club’s following is now the fifth biggest in U.S. sports behind a quartet of NBA teams.
The sponsorship income for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner represents roughly one-third of Messi’s total earnings up til this point in his career.
“Having him say Major League Soccer is his league of choice, not Saudi Arabia, not FC Barcelona, it adds just a level of excitement and credibility and just enormous enthusiasm behind our league,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told Bloomberg TV on Thursday.
Messi’s first game with Inter Miami is expected to be on July 21 versus Liga MX club Cruz Azul in a Leagues Cup match.
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