Jorge Mas, Inter Miami owner: “Messi is going to change sports in the United States”
Jorge Mas, one of the owners of Inter Miami, gave an interview to ‘El Club del Deportista’ in which he spoke about the consequences of Lionel Messi’s arrival in MLS.
Lionel Messi’s arrival in the United States has provoked a tsunami at every level of soccer in the country. Tickets disappear in a matter of minutes to see the Argentine wherever he plays, his shirt has become one of the best sellers in just two months and even Apple TV+ has seen an exponential increase in its fees to watch the league in streaming.
Everything Messi touches, like a true King Midas, turns into gold. Jorge Mas, one of the shareholders of Inter Miami, gave an interview to El Club del Deportista in which he discussed Messi’s impact and the team’s transformation from being considered one of the worst in the league to being the rival to beat.
“I always aspired to sign Leo Messi. Everyone told me I was crazy for thinking I would come to Inter Miami. And in 2019 I organized a meeting with Jorge Messi. David Beckham and myself explained the project to Jorge for three hours. I went there to sell the concept of Miami to him. I see the history of football in North America with three important dates: Pelé joining the Cosmos in 1972, Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles and Messi’s arrival in Miami,” Mas said about his dream of signing Messi.
Messi’s arrival has been a true game changer for North American soccer and MLS, a league that is constantly expanding and that dreams of becoming one of the most powerful on the continent. “MLS has totally changed. Now, every time we play away from home the stadiums are full. The reception which Lionel has been given has been extraordinary. The game in New York, with almost 30,000 fans, 80% shouting Messi’s name, there were Albiceleste and pink Inter Miami t-shirts... It shocked me, I didn’t expect that . And see the impact that Lionel has had, how interest in the league is increasing and how the world now sets its eyes on the North American League. It’s a turning point - Messi’s arrival will mark a before and after in MLS,” Mas added with visible emotion.
However, Messi’s signing took years to come together and took a lot of persisting. Jorge Mas was in almost daily contact with the player’s father, his namesake Jorge Messi. “I told Jorge [Messi]: ‘Your son will have the opportunity to create a new legacy because he will be able to change a sport in a country’, and that is something that very few athletes get a chance to do. I maintained constant communication with Jorge, it took four and a half years to convince Lionel and make him decide with his family. I never lost faith. I was convinced that Lionel Messi was going to arrive in Miami. I spent a lot of time talking with Lionel talking about Miami, about family life, about his future and I saw that there was a great possibility of being able, after the World Cup, in January or February to close something,” explained the Inter Miami president.
After years of hard work, closing the operation to hire the best player in history was similar to when Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls for his second stage. “When I saw Messi at Miami airport I just thought: ‘Wow, this is real’. The future looks bright with Leo - among the promises I made to him was making sure that he was able to say goodbye, in the appropriate way, to his home, FC Barcelona, the place where he grew up. Messi’s departure from Barcelona was not pleasant, he couldn’t say goodbye to his club - the club which welcomed him as a child, and I think the circumstances were not what Lionel wanted. I gave him my word that I will do everything possible in the coming years so that he has the opportunity to say goodbye to his fans in Barcelona. Inter Miami will go there or we will arrange some kind of match,” Mas concluded.
Focus on Spain
His investment group also owns one of the biggest clubs in Spain, Real Zaragoza. The Maños, six-time Copa del Rey winners, have spent the past decade in Spain’s second division and trying to gain promotion back to the top flight. As club president, Jorge Mas is confident that with work and the permanent enthusiasm that they are carrying out in the project, they will return to their rightful place. “The objective is to reach the first division, but that cannot be achieved overnight. We are already seeing the fruits of what we have been able to achieve up until now, the team is very well set up with Raúl Sanllehí, Juan Carlos Cordero, Escribá. We are in a very good situation and I am very satisfied with the sporting aspect,” Mas said.
He is also proud of the buoyant atmosphere that surrounds Zaragoza this season. “When you see that we have more than 28,800 season ticket holders, hearing La Romareda filled and cheering the team on... it’s nice to see that excitement among the fans. I’m always being told not to set expectations too high - just in case it doesn’t come. But it’s really nice have have that feeling of hope, of optimism - it’s wonderful to see La Romareda with that expectation. We’re going to make the most of it because that energy is positive. You have to live out your dreams and we all dream of Real Zaragoza gaining promotion next year,” concluded Mas, who has been president of Real Zaragoza since May 2022. The team is current third in the table in LaLiga 2 on 16 points, just two points behind leaders Leganés.