Messi wins 2023 Athlete of the Year: List of TIME magazine’s past winners
The Inter Miami star picked up the prestigious award for the incredible impact that he has had on soccer in the United States.
Lionel Messi has been named Athlete of the Year by TIME Magazine for his astonishing impact since arriving in MLS.
The 36-year-old made the switch to Inter Miami in July and had an immediate, transformative effect on those around him, leading the team to the first silverware in franchise history. But Messi’s influence extended far beyond the confines of the locker room and he has helped to shift perceptions of soccer in the United States.
On the day of Messi’s Inter Miami debut, Apple added around 110,000 new US-based subscribers to the MLS Season Pass service. This represented a 1,700% bump on the previous day and huge increases were also seen in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Europe.
Messi’s arrival in MLS has undoubtedly sparked a fresh wave of interest in the sport in the US. FC Dallas president Dan Hunt spoke to TIME about the new impetus that Messi has given to the league as a whole.
“We are having conversations with people that would not even be remotely possible five years ago,” Hunt explained. “And I know we’re not the only ones.”
TIME Athlete of the Year: Previous winners
Popular magazine TIME is well-known for the iconic Person of the Year award, which has been handed out every year since 1927. In a near 100-year history it has been won by the likes of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elon Musk.
However the Athlete of the Year award is considerably younger, with the first award given out in 2019. Messi becomes the first non-American to win the prize.
Messi has proved a resounding success in his first months in Miami and there are huge expectations for next season. However the Argentine admitted to TIME that he had considered other possibilities, including a return to Barcelona and a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia, before opting for MLS.
“The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyze them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami,” Messi said after receiving the award.