Could Lionel Messi's next chapter be in MLS?
In future transfer windows, it's a possibility that Inter Miami CF CEO and managing owner Jorge Mas and co-owner David Beckham are both optimistic about.
"Both David Beckham and I aspire to bring the best players in the world here in Miami," Mas said in an interview with Diario Sport. "Not only because of the project we're creating but also because we want to be a reference point for soccer in the United States.
"When one talks about the best players in the world, Leo is obviously the best player on the planet," Mas continued. "We hope the conditions are there for him to be here, playing with the Inter Miami jersey in the United States. We aspire to that. We hope the circumstances are favorable."
Messi is under contract at Paris-Saint Germain through June 2023, having joined the French club in August 2021 after a legendary career at FC Barcelona that included a record seven Ballon d'Or awards. Now 35, the forward is gearing up for his fifth World Cup when playing for Argentina in Qatar 2022.
A landmark deal for arguably the world's best-ever player isn't imminent, Mas said, but that doesn't deter the Herons' excitement levels.
"There are no guarantees, there's no agreement in place, but I'm a very optimistic person and I hope that Leo Messi can be part of our project in the future," Mas said.
This is certainly not the first time Messi's name has been linked to Inter Miami, nor will it likely be the last. Though should he come to MLS, his global profile and reach would surely reach another tier beyond mega-signings of years past like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kaka, Thierry Henry and more.
Were Messi to join Inter Miami, he would likely command a Designated Player spot. The club could enter the 2023 season with up to three openings there given a contract option on striker Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro's uncertain status and the expiring contract on Alejandro Pozuelo. Of the three, Pozuelo seems most likely to return after a recent trade from Toronto FC.
DP math aside, as Inter Miami chief business officer Xavier Asensi put it, Messi is in a different tier and would be a transformative player both for the league and the club's aspirations.
"What we're looking for is to be the reference point for football in the U.S., and to do that, the important thing is the players and the show that you can put on," said Asensi, a former Barca executive, in an interview with El Mundo Deportivo. "To do so, you need the best players, and having them is a genuine objective at this club. In terms of Leo Messi, there's him and then there's everyone else."
Messi was linked to Inter Miami this past May, though reports of him potentially getting a large ownership stake in IMCF upon moving to the Florida-based club in the summer of 2023 were spiked and dubbed "completely false."
But great anticipation will always follow Messi's transfer market future, and Inter Miami have shown considerable progress in their third year as a club. With plans to build a 25,000-seat stadium at the Miami Freedom Park project for 2025, perhaps Messi would ring in the new venue.
For more from Mas, check out the full interview here.