Transfer Tracker

Report: Inter Miami close to MLS-record deal with Lionel Messi



UPDATE (Nov. 27) – Inter Miami CF are nearing a deal with Lionel Messi that would make the Argentine superstar the highest-paid player in MLS history, according to a report Sunday in The Times of London.

Messi, who’s under contract at Paris Saint-Germain through the 2022-23 European season, is currently at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with the Albiceleste and is reportedly being lured by a league-record sum. The Herons are also reportedly looking into reuniting him with former FC Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez and Cesc Fàbregas.

Miami are "confident" of reaching an agreement with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, according to The Times. Messi, who turns 36 in June, would join the Herons once his contract with PSG expires this summer.

As it now stands, Toronto FC star Lorenzo Insigne is the highest-paid player in MLS, with a base salary of $14 million.

ORIGINAL (Oct. 31) – Inter Miami CF are “increasingly confident” they’re in a position to sign legendary Argentine forward Lionel Messi after his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires this upcoming summer, according to The Athletic’s David Ornstein.

The 35-year-old has been linked with a return to Barcelona, and PSG reportedly are hopeful to extend his stay at French soccer’s highest-profile team. Yet Ornstein notes long-time discussions between the parties are progressing about Messi coming to MLS.

Messi’s future likely wouldn’t be decided until after the FIFA 2022 World Cup unfolds this November and December, with La Albiceleste among the favorites in Qatar.

But Ornstein reports Miami’s ownership group has held “numerous meetings” with Messi’s father, and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner would be able to sign a pre-contract this winter as his current PSG deal expires in June 2023.

Messi's acclaimed career

Should the Herons land Messi, it’d be the highest-profile move in MLS history, surpassing when now-Miami co-owner David Beckham arrived at the LA Galaxy in 2007 and the Designated Player rule began. Other legendary players have signed, ranging from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry to now-LAFC forward Gareth Bale and now-D.C. United coach Wayne Rooney, though Messi’s on a different level.

The forward remains remarkably productive, too, starring up top this season for PSG alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to the tune of 11 goals and 13 assists across 16 UEFA Champions League and Ligue 1 matches. It’s his second season in France’s capital city, having departed boyhood club FC Barcelona in August 2021 amid financial struggles at the Spanish side.

While at Barca, Messi became their all-time leading scorer with an astonishing 672 goals and 303 assists in 778 total matches. He lifted a club-record 35 trophies across 17 seasons with the LaLiga giants.

Internationally, Messi captains Argentina and has 90 goals and 51 assists across 164 appearances, making him – far and away – the South American country's all-time leader in both categories. He brought home the Copa América 2021 title and was a 2014 World Cup runner-up.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring for Argentina. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Miami's roster make-up

A player of Messi’s caliber would surely command a DP spot, and Miami could have as many as three open this offseason. One is available as Gonzalo Higuain, Messi’s former international running mate, retires. Then the other two hinge on the futures of former MLS MVP midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who’s out of contract at year’s end, and Mexican international midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who’s been on loan at Liga MX’s CF Monterrey.

Miami are coming off their best-ever season in their three-year history, having joined the league in 2020. Against all odds and expectations, head coach Phil Neville led a re-engineered roster – as constructed by sporting director Chris Henderson – to a sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference standings in 2022. They fell in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs at defending champions New York City FC.

Earlier this year, Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said “we aspire to that” when asked about potentially signing Messi. And Beckham has previously said “to be honest, it’s not a difficult pitch” regarding selling players on playing in the South Florida city.

While it’s all transfer scuttlebutt for now, the links come as MLS enters an exciting period with a new, transformational Apple broadcast deal set to begin in 2023. Also on the horizon is the reimagined Leagues Cup for next season, and the Herons’ plans to build a 25,000-seat stadium at the ​​​​Miami Freedom Park project for 2025.

A signing of Messi’s caliber and acclaim would only boost those headwinds, so it’s about seeing what unfolds in the months ahead.