Wednesday, October 4 2023

Lionel Messi’s contract with MLS club Inter Miami is getting closer to being finalized, according to someone familiar with the process. The two-and-a-half-year deal includes an option for 2026.

The agreement is worth up to $150 million total from his salary, signing bonus and equity in the team. Messi is expected to exercise his ownership stake in the franchise after he is done playing with Inter Miami. Revenue-sharing agreements with league partners Apple, Adidas and Fanatics are still being negotiated and would be in addition to this total.

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There is no subsidy from MLS as part of the agreement and no changes to the roster rules. The deal does not include an option for Messi to buy an MLS club, as the league did with David Beckham in 2007—which ultimately became the Inter Miami club.

Messi is expected to make his debut with Inter Miami on July 21 in a home Leagues Cup match against Liga MX team Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium. He is under contract with Paris Saint-Germain until June 30, and the MLS summer transfer window opens July 5. Miami is expected to be aggressive in the window and are targeting Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets to join Messi in south Florida.

The foundation for Messi’s move to Miami was laid before the franchise even played its first game in 2020. Team co-owner Jorge Mas met with Messi’s father, Jorge, in Barcelona in 2019. Messi announced his plans to join Inter Miami earlier this month after also fielding offers from Barcelona and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.

The move set off a flurry of ticking buying with prices on the secondary market jumping as much as 1,000% in some markets. Inter Miami season ticket demand had been 10 times what the team could fulfill. Inter Miami is expected to add 3,000 seats to its current stadium to help meet some of the demand. In 2025, the team will open its new Miami Freedom Park with Messi in the lineup.

Inter Miami ranked 10th in Sportico’s 2022 MLS team valuations at $585 million. That value was expected to rise near the top of the league as the stadium project moved forward, and Messi’s arrival will accelerate that jump.

Inter Miami had 1 million Instagram followers before the Messi announcement, but now has more than 8 million, which ranks fifth among American sports franchises; only a quartet of NBA teams are ahead. Messi has 473 million followers—second in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi, 35, has earned an estimated $1.2 billion in salary, bonuses and endorsements during his nearly two decades as a pro. The tally ranks fifth all time among athletes.

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