As PSG contract talks stall, could Messi be about to move to MLS?
With Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain future up in the air, MLS and Inter Miami are out to persuade the World Cup winner to move to the United States.
Paris Saint-Germain’s European elimination has led to debate within the club over Lionel Messi’s contract renewal. In December, during the 2022 World Cup, Messi and PSG reached an agreement in principle over a new deal for the 35-year-old, who is a free agent in the summer. However, progress on the Argentina captain’s extension has now stalled, as PSG chiefs grow increasingly sceptical about the wisdom of keeping hold of a player who earns €40 million a year net at the Parc des Princes.
PSG enthusiasm for Messi extension waning
Were Messi to be removed from the Ligue 1 champions’ wage bill, the club would enjoy greater financial room for manoeuvre in the summer transfer window. PSG are also mindful of the fans’ anger with Messi in the wake of this month’s Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich - the team’s second consecutive last-16 exit from the tournament. Many supporters are urging the club not to extend his contract.
According to sources close to PSG’s president, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, any new agreement with Messi will not be for longer than 12 months. When the forward joined PSG from Barcelona in summer 2021, he signed a two-year contract with the option of a further season, but he cannot unilaterally activate the additional period. The two parties must first agree on the terms of such an extension.
Saudi Arabia, MLS favourites to lure Messi from Paris
If Messi doesn’t stay at PSG next season, he’s highly unlikely to remain in European soccer. Paris are the only club on the continent that can meet, or even get close, to Messi’s salary demands. The player’s next destination could be Saudi Arabia - a country for which he now works as an ambassador - or the United States. Major League Soccer, with Inter Miami seemingly the best-placed franchise in the North American league, looks to be the likeliest option.
US out to boost MLS star power ahead of World Cup
According to L’Équipe, Inter Miami would be willing to dig very deep to sign the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. And just as PSG’s Qatari owners took him to Paris a year before the Gulf nation was due to host the World Cup, a move to lure Messi to the US would be made with one eye on the tournament. The US is to co-host the next World Cup, in 2026, and his arrival in MLS would represent a coup that would launch the profile of soccer in the States into a new stratosphere.
What’s more, MLS recently signed a 10-year, $2.5bn broadcast contract with Apple TV - a deal that will significantly bolster its franchises’ financial muscle as the league seeks to keep on growing. Messi, L’Équipe reports, likes the US. He travels regularly to the country, where he owns a luxury apartment in Florida.
Messi a “priority” for Inter Miami owner Más
Jerome Meary, a well-known agent who represents players in Europe and MLS, has revealed to the French newspaper that Messi has become “the number-one priority for Jorge Más, the owner of Inter Miami”. Meary added that talks between the franchise and Jorge Messi, the player’s father and agent, were stepped up during the World Cup. The league, meanwhile, is busy designing a plan to persuade Messi to cross the pond, following a strategy similar to that used to lure David Beckham to Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.
Beckham not only earned more than $30m a season at the Galaxy, but was also given expansion-franchise rights - a clause that he later triggered, in exchange for $25m, when he founded Inter Miami and took the team into the league in 2018. MLS would offer Messi the same option. His deal could also be sweetened by including ownership of real estate at Miami Freedom Park, the Florida franchise’s planned new stadium.