Miami soccer fans are aglow over their Major League Soccer team’s signing of soccer supernova Lionel Messi on June 7.
Inter Miami is paying the Argentine soccer star a reported $50-to-$60 million on a two-year deal, plus shares in the soccer club when he retires, and a cut of Apple TV’s broadcasting rights payments to MLS soccer games.
Yet the high-profile signing took years to play out and included high-stakes offers from Saudi Arabia and Barcelona that Messi ultimately passed on to play in South Florida.
“(The negotiations lasted) three years – one-and-a-half years negotiating intensely,” said Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas in an interview with El País. “(We had) lots of conversations with Jorge (Messi, Lionel’s dad). I viewed it as done at the end of May. David (Beckham, Inter Miami co-owner) talked to Leo, only over footballing topics, because he was still playing at Paris Saint- Germain. I didn’t want him to feel any pressure. We’ve spoken in Barcelona, Miami, Rosario, and Doha. I spent the entire World Cup in Qatar watching Argentina.”
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Mas, a 60-year-old Cuban-American, said the origins of the Messi signing began three years ago.
“In 2019 we started to think about how we could bring him (Messi) to Miami, a global city on the rise,” he said. “When people think about football in the United States, we want them to think about Miami.”
The MLS’ partnership with Apple may have helped land the soccer star. In February, Apple began offering access to league games via its MLS Season Pass service, part of a 10-year $2.5 billion deal.
“The Apple contract was very important to close the deal,” Mas said.
Messi reportedly turned down a three-year $1.6 billion deal to play soccer in Saudi Arabia. Messi also rejected an opportunity to return to Barcelona, where he led the famed Spanish soccer club to 21 major professional world soccer trophies before leaving the team in 2021.
Messi’s current contract with Paris Saint-Germain ended June 30. He’s aiming for a July 21 debut for his new MLS team, the Miami Herald reported.