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Inter Miami, Beckham and Florida: where does Lionel Messi put his feet?


Highlights: Lionel Messi joins Inter Miami as part of the new MLS franchise. The Argentine is the first player to join the club since David Beckham in 2007. The club has been struggling to find a home for its new stadium in Miami, Florida. The team will play in the MLS until 2020, when it will move to the MLS Cup in New York. The new team will be known as the Miami Heat or the Miami Dolphins, depending on which team wins the MLS title in 2020. It will be the first time that the Miami franchise has been part of a major international tournament.

DECRYPTION - The Argentine world champion joins a club created by David Beckham three years ago and sportingly weak.

Finally, the point of fall will not be Saudi Arabia and its gigantic contract of 400 million euros per season, even less FC Barcelona and a love story that ends definitively, but Inter Miami and the Florida sun. Lionel Messi dribbled everyone on Wednesday night by announcing his arrival in David Beckham's franchise while the American track seemed to be behind in recent days. At almost 36 years old (on June 24), the Argentine world champion is getting closer to his country, offers an idyllic family life to his wife and children and lays a foundation stone for the 2026 World Cup that will take place... in the United States, Mexico and Canada. But in what context does the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner arrive at Inter Milan? Presentation.

Inter Miami, the story of a crazy project

It's good to live in Miami, the sun is shining, sports disciplines are multiple and franchises to support also between the Miami Heat in basketball, the Marlins in baseball, the Dolphins in American football or the Florida Panthers in ice hockey ... and Inter Miami in football since 2020. Announced as a new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in 2018 and officially integrated two years later, Inter Miami had to build from scratch and attract fans in an attempt to become the city's landmark. Quite a challenge far from being met today. In terms of details, this includes the logo (a coat of arms that respects the Art Deco style dear to Miami), the emblem (the heron, a migratory bird that represents the different communities living in "Magic City") and the main color of the club (pink like that of the sky when the sun sets on the city). Even the name of the franchise is not chosen at random, it sounds South American to speak to the large Hispanic population of the city. This led to a legal battle with Inter Milan, unhappy to see the same name exist on the American continent.

Lionel Messi Benoit Tessier / REUTERS

In terms of infrastructure, the project is huge with a new stadium project that is struggling to see the light of day. Despite a training center worthy of high European standings, the Florida club has still not built its Miami Freedom Park, a 26,000-seat arena part of a substantial real estate project with offices and a luxury hotel. Inter Miami should have moved to Overtown instead of a golf course but the site turned out to be heavily polluted. For now, it is at Lockhart Stadium renamed Drive Pink Stadium that David Beckham's band evolves. An 18,000-seat stadium destroyed and then rebuilt a little in disaster while waiting to find better. Yet managed by the English legend, the Miami soccer club remains so far below the others, sportingly and mediatically. But with Lionel Messi, it won't be the same story. Normally.

Beckham the providential man of the East Coast

Inter Miami is David Beckham. Nothing else. Or so little. Until the coat of arms where we see in the background a solar eclipse with seven rays in tribute to the legendary number he often wore as a professional player at Manchester United in particular. The 48-year-old Englishman is the club's gondola head. Between media outings and sports and non-sporting contacts with his gigantic address book, Beckham intends to make his baby take off sportingly and financially after a little more than three years of existence. The arrival of Messi, whom he met during his visit to the capital at the end of April, is his greatest achievement. After leaving the green rectangle in 2013 in tears under ovations at PSG, Victoria's husband, a former member of the Spice Girls, returned to MLS in a very different role. A player with the LA Galaxy from 2007 to 2012, the magically right-footed midfielder had restored an appeal to the American League opened in 1993. He even became the first footballer to have his statue in the United States in 2019 in front of the Los Angeles Galaxy stadium. In 2007 when he arrived on the American continent, the British negotiated with US leaders the possibility of creating a franchise for "only" $ 25 million instead of $ 150. We refuse nothing to the British legend ... In January 2019, he donned the costume of big boss for the first time in Florida. The charm operates and the figures take off in terms of ticket prices, follow-ups on social networks or sponsorship contracts. It's hard to find a better ambassador on the international stage than the former Red Devils. On the pitch, Beckham's most difficult task was assembling a team from scratch. Despite crazy rumours in the first year, the Briton failed to attract real big names until 2020 and the arrivals of Frenchman Blaise Matuidi and Argentine Gonzalo Higuain.

What is the future team of the seven-time Ballon d'Or worth?

If Messi has always played the leading roles in the league with PSG or Barça, in Miami it is a real change of scenery that awaits the Pulga. The men in pink are the red lantern of the Eastern Conference and 27th out of 29 overall. The herons are far from the play-off they reached in the best season in their history in 2022 with a 6th place. For good reason, the squad does not dream with the Venezuelan top scorer Josef Martinez (3 goals in 14 games) and the French Corentin Jean (ex-Toulouse, Lens, Troyes, Monaco) as "headliner". If Inter Miami was able to take advantage of Matuidi and Higuain for two years, the Florida club had to lower its recruitment after receiving a record fine of $ 2 million in 2021 for not respecting the salary conditions of the championship. The only good sporting news for Messi is that he does not risk relegation since MLS is a closed league. The end of the regular season is scheduled for October, and even with the world champion, it's hard to imagine Miami challenging for the title in the playoffs. Still, Lionel Messi is expected in July in Florida. For the magic to happen.

Source: lefigaro

All sports articles on 2023-06-08

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