After more than a decade and a half as a one-club man, Lionel Messi moved to PSG when Barcelona’s financial difficulties made it impossible to stay in Catalunya. The reasons for that move were pretty clear: a move was inevitable, and PSG had both the financial and sporting profile to represent an appropriate destination.
Two years later, with a World Cup-sized hole in his career finally filled, Messi’s wanderlust struck again when he moved to America’s panhandle to play for Inter Miami. If the short hop from Barcelona to Paris was a logical one, this latest move has generated more curiosity, the primary question being “Why?”. It’s a good question: why has Messi moved to a club that thus far has been an MLS also-ran?
When a player of immense profile moves to a club of … not immense profile, the motivation is often financial. Huge financial inducements can erase a lot of professional concerns with regard to the standard of a league and the team’s chances of winning trophies. From what we know of the contract Messi signed in Miami, he’s banking something between $1million and $1.2 million a week. That’s a decent chunk of change, more even than he was being paid by the wealthy Qatari paymasters who financed his move to PSG.
It is, however, about a quarter of what Cristiano Ronaldo is being paid by Saudi club Al-Nassr. Considering that by every professional metric, Messi is the better player, he could be earning more if he were looking to feather his nest as deeply as possible. So maybe it’s not just the hefty paycheck.
Inter Miami is a club that has existed as a concept for longer than it has on the turf. More specifically, it is the club that David Beckham was promised he could launch in order to seal his move to the MLS some years ago. For all that Beckham has been castigated for being a celebrity ahead of a sportsman, there’s no denying the sporting pedigree of a player who enjoyed a 20+ year professional career in the colors of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan, PSG and LA Galaxy. His love of the game could well make Inter Miami attractive to a similarly-decorated player.
Also, and perhaps tellingly, Messi’s arrival in Miami was sandwiched by the signings of left-back Jordi Alba and midfield anchor Sergio Busquets, former Barca teammates of the club’s new #10. The presence of familiar faces – and likely dressing-room allies – indicates a desire on the club’s part to provide a comfortable landing spot. The on-field telepathy that the trio will have retained from their time in La Liga can’t hurt from a sporting perspective.
There is certainly some evidence to suggest that if Messi could have chosen his curtain call in the game, he would have preferred to play out his days in the familiar red and blue of Barcelona rather than the pink of Miami. Indeed, the negotiations to get him across the Atlantic were notably drawn out as avenues to get him back “home” were explored. Quotes attributed to Leo indicated that Barcelona would have needed to sell players to make the move possible, and with the club needing an extensive on-field rebuild, he did not want to be a reason for any complications on that front.
None of this is to say that his eventual move to the States has been a disappointment for Messi. His initial form in the MLS has indicated that a strong competitive streak still burns within, and the 30-month contract he has signed will keep him an Inter player until he’s 38, indicating that he’s serious about making a go of it. As an increasingly solid team coalesces around him, there could yet be more glory for the GOAT to experience. That, as much as any pay packet, may be what has motivated his move.
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