1 of 5 | Lionel Messi, who led Argentina to a World Cup title in December, decided to join MLS club Inter Miami. File Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, June 7 (UPI) -- Soccer sensation Lionel Messi will sign with Inter Miami, opting to join the MLS club after being linked to a return to FC Barcelona and a very lucrative offer from the Saudi Pro League, he announced Wednesday.
"I made the decision that I am going to Miami," Messi told Spanish media outlets Sport and Mundo Deportivo. "I still haven't closed it 100%. I'm missing some things, but we decided to continue my journey there.
"After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the league of the United States to live football in another way and to enjoy the day-to-day more. Obviously, with the same responsibility and desire to play well and do things well as always. But in a calmer way."
Barcelona said Wednesday in a news release that Messi's father and agent, Jorge Messi, informed them Monday of his intention to join Inter Miami.
"President Joan Laporta understood and respected Messi's decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years," Barcelona said.
Sources told The Athletic, ESPN and the Miami Herald that Inter Miami's offers to Messi included revenue shares generated by subscribers to the MLS streaming package on Apple TV+. His pact is said to be for two and a half years and includes an option for 2026.
Those reports also mentioned potential for future team ownership stakes and a profit-sharing agreement with Adidas. The sportswear company currently maintains partnerships with MLS and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.
"We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer," MLS said in a news release.
"Although work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league."
Messi, 35, started his senior career with Barcelona in 2004. He played for the Spanish La Liga power until leaving in 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain. The French Ligue 1 champions announced last week that Messi would leave this summer, when his contract expires at the end of June.
The star striker, who led Argentina to a World Cup title in December, totaled 102 goals in 174 international appearances. He scored more than 700 goals during his club tenures in Spain and France.
Inter Miami (5-11) sits in last place in the Eastern Conference, which features 15 MLS teams. The club, which started play in 2020, finished 10th in its first season. Inter Miami finished 11th and sixth, respectively, in the 2021 and 2022 Eastern Conference standings.
Soccer legend David Beckham and billionaires Jorge Mas and Jose Mas own the MLS club. Beckham visited with Messi during an April practice session at Paris Saint-German.
Inter Miami will face Birmingham Legion FC in an U.S. Open Cup match at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala.
Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the FIFA World Cup trophy after the final match Lusail Stadium in Lusail City, Qatar, on December 18, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo