We did not necessarily expect it across the Atlantic, but it is in Florida that Lionel Messi will continue his career. "I made the decision to go to Miami. It is still not 100% recorded but we have decided to take this path, "said Wednesday the Argentine to the Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo.
After more than fifteen years at FC Barcelona and two at Paris Saint-Germain, where the "Pulga" says she was "not happy" and even less "had fun", the game of the Argentine will be exported to "Major League Soccer" (MLS), the main professional football league in North America. We take stock of what awaits the player in the jersey of Inter Miami.
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) June 7, 2023
A birth in 2018 under the impetus of David Beckham
Inter Miami is the club of David Beckham, himself a former player in the American league. "When he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he negotiated with his contract the possibility of registering a new franchise in the league at a reduced price," said Antoine Latran, MLS specialist for CultureSoccer. This is what he did in 2018 by creating Inter Miami, and instead of the 150 million euros to be paid at the time, he had to pay "only" 25 million euros. He shares ownership of the club with brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, two businessmen.
Everything remains to be created: a squad, a sports strategy, a fan base... "The first few months were complicated despite the signing of good players like Gonzalo Higuain," said Antoine Latran. They have been plagued by financial difficulties, some of which have been related to fines imposed for non-compliance with MLS rules."
At the time, the club had cheated to afford the services of another former Parisian, Blaise Matuidi. The latter had not been one of the three players of the so-called "designated" squad, that is to say the only ones who could receive a salary exceeding the framework set by MLS. A rule still in force today and which should logically benefit Lionel Messi.
Where will Lionel Messi play and train?
Since joining MLS in 2020, the club has played its home games at Drive Pink Stadium, a 19,000-seat stadium in Fort Lauderdale, a city in the northern suburbs of Miami. It is also where the squad trains, in a training center consisting of seven football fields and a training center.
But the Florida franchise should, from 2025, leave these spaces for bigger with the "Miami Freedom Park". The project, which is to be built in the airport area of the city and will therefore be closer to the center of the capital of Florida, will live in a 25,000-seat enclosure, "100% financed by private owners," says the club.
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A level of play "mid or even bottom of Ligue 1 table"
Currently ranked last in the MLS Eastern Conference regular season standings, the California franchise is one of the youngest in the league. "It's a club with a mid-level or even bottom of the Ligue 1 table, judge Antoine Latran. But some European players have sometimes failed to establish themselves in MLS, it should not be underestimated. "
Still, the level of play can vary greatly from one player to another. "With the salary cap, the teams are generally quite heterogeneous," continues Antoine Latran. We can have great players from European championships rubbing shoulders with young players from the club's training center or even a university football team." The championship is as a whole more homogeneous. "It is almost impossible to bet on a team, even from one year to another," adds the specialist.
In Miami, Messi will meet the former Lensois Corentin Jean, arrived in Florida in the summer of 2022, the American DeAndre Yedlin, who has played for Newcastle and Galatasaray, the Ecuadorian Leonardo Campana, passed by Wolverhampton in the Premier League or Rodolfo Pizarro, already selected for the national team of Mexico. But it is on the side of the coach that the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner could find a well-known head, that of Gerardo "Tata" Martino. The Argentine press evokes a possible agreement between the leaders of Inter Miami and the former coach of Barca and Albiceleste, who has already had Messi under his command for three years.