Lionel Messi: Inter Miami superstar named TIME's Athlete of the Year

Lionel Messi - dramatic shot

Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi, whose paradigm-shifting summer signing forever changed the MLS and North American soccer landscapes, has been named TIME Magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023.

The legendary Argentine No. 10 and FIFA 2022 World Cup champion was an instant phenomenon upon his mid-July arrival, scoring a stoppage-time, free-kick golazo in his Herons debut against Cruz Azul. That magical moment in late July spurred a Messi-inspired run to the 2023 Leagues Cup title – the club's first-ever trophy.

Messi's 11g/5a across all competitions also led Miami to the US Open Cup Final, although injuries and national-team commitments limited his appearances down the final stretch as Tata Martino's side missed out on the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

But the GOAT was his usual dominant self in 2023, boosting his unrivaled legacy after adding a world-record eighth Ballon d'Or prize to his collection and making Inter Miami the must-see attraction of the summer – luring the likes of Kim Kardashian, LeBron James and Serena Williams, among other A-listers, to sold-out stadiums.

With Messi – along with fellow blockbuster signings Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba – set to take part in his first full preseason with Miami, the Herons promise to be an even bigger attraction in 2024 as they look to build on this year's success. 

"I have no doubts, just like in the beginning, that next year will be much better," Messi said last month. "We’re going to keep on having fun, keep on winning titles."