Charlotte FC manager Miguel Angel Ramirez set the record straight Monday regarding his comments in a GOAL.com piece about Lionel Messi possibly coming to MLS.
The Spanish coach was quoted as saying, in terms of “impact on society,” it’s not necessary for the 34-year-old legend, who’s currently at Ligue 1’s Paris-Saint Germain after becoming a global superstar at La Liga’s Barcelona, to join the MLS ranks.
Is that to suggest Charlotte wouldn’t welcome the Argentine star if such an opportunity arose? Not quite.
“The media is cutting what I’m saying to get clicks, and now I am the idiot who doesn’t want Messi in MLS,” Ramirez said in Spanish. “I want Messi to come, and if he would come to Charlotte FC, even better. Let him come to Charlotte FC; I will sign that right now.”
In MLS terms, Messi would require an open Designated Player spot and likely command a league-record salary. Timing, his desired destination and culture all play significant roles – with plenty of suitors around the world willing to move heaven and earth to sign the seven-time Ballon D’Or winner.
But Ramirez’s central point, as he stressed, is more that MLS is growing by leaps and bounds without needing a player like Messi to draw interest in a transcendent manner. The league’s now in its 27th year and fields 28 clubs, with cities across the United States and Canada drawing support en masse.
“Messi does not need to come here to see the change in this country; there are already so many young kids who aren’t choosing American football or basketball, they are choosing soccer. It’s not because of Messi,” Ramirez said.
“What I’m saying is the change is already happening in MLS, we had over 32,000 fans on Saturday, and we don’t have Messi or Cristiano (Ronaldo); we have a young team who is playing their hearts out for their club. We don’t have a big name here, and we had 32,000 fans. That is what I’m referring to.”
Charlotte, an expansion side in 2022, set a league single-game attendance record back in Week 2 when 74,479 fans observed their match vs. the LA Galaxy. And the crowds have kept coming at Bank of America Stadium, with their inaugural season just 11 games old.
Moreover, Ramirez’s comments emphasize how soccer cultures across MLS are growing more sophisticated. Big-name signings certainly help when the fit is right, but Charlotte’s coach reiterates that clubs are savvier than just focusing on that approach, be it Messi or another player.
“The societal change is what I am referring to; you’re already seeing it,” Ramirez said. “I see shirts of CLTFC every day; I get stopped every day at the supermarket, the bar, everywhere. We don’t have a name, that is what I mean. We are seeing the change and not just among Latinos because many Americans come here, boys and girls.”