Lionel Messi will snub a lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia and move to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami as a free agent after parting ways with French champion Paris St Germain, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Messi, who played his final game for PSG over the weekend, was also linked with a return to Barcelona but the Spanish club have had their hands tied due to LaLiga’s financial fair play rules.
Should the deal with Miami go through, the 35-year-old Argentine will play outside Europe for the first time since he joined Barca’s academy at the age of 13 and became the Spanish club’s all-time record goalscorer with 672 goals.
Messi had wanted to go to a club where he could eventually have an ownership stake, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters this week. He also wanted to maximise his existing deal with Adidas and MLS’s relationship with Apple.
MLS earns a flat fee of about $200 million per year from Apple until they reach a certain threshold of subscriptions, after which point they will earn a share of the revenue from those subscriptions.
Messi’s move to MLS is expected to drive viewers to the Apple TV streaming platform, as the world’s most recognisable soccer player.
Messi, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar in December and has earned a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, won the Ligue 1 title in his two seasons with PSG as well as the French Super Cup in 2022.
The forward was also linked with a move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal after he received a formal offer.
The Gulf country has been looking to bring the game’s biggest players to its league and was successful in convincing Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al Nassr soon after the World Cup. French striker Karim Benzema joined Al Ittihad this week.
Inter Miami are co-owned by former England captain David Beckham, who was one of the first major European stars to move to the United States to play in the MLS, winning the MLS Cup twice with Los Angeles Galaxy.
Reuters has contacted MLS and Inter Miami for comment.