Lionel Messi 'very excited' to start next chapter at Inter Miami

Free agent Messi, 36, has signed a contract through to the 2025 season

Lionel Messi has signed a contract until 2025 with Inter Miami, the Major League Soccer team announced on Saturday. AFP
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Lionel Messi said he was "excited" to start the next chapter in his career after finalising his move to Major League Soccer club Inter Miami.

The Argentine superstar officially signed with the MLS side on Saturday and is set to be unveiled in a Sunday ceremony and expected to join Inter Miami on the pitch by Friday.

Free agent Messi, 36, has penned a contract through to the 2025 season. The former Barcelona forward joins after two years at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I'm very excited to start this next step in my career with Inter Miami and in the United States," Messi said in a statement.

"This is a fantastic opportunity and together we will continue to build this beautiful project.

"The idea is to work together to achieve the objectives we set and I'm very eager to start helping here in my new home."

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's arrival in Miami has already caused a sensation and is expected to spark greater interest in the game and MLS across the United States.

Messi's presence on the pitch can not come soon enough at Miami as the team sit bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference and suffered an 11th successive defeat on Saturday when they lost aways to St Louis City 3-0 on Saturday.

Messi's debut match is planned for Friday when Inter Miami will host Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup, a revamped competition between MLS and Mexican league squads.

It's the biggest boost for MLS since English star David Beckham, now a co-owner of Inter Miami, joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. He launched the MLS Miami squad in 2020 after years of trying to find a stadium site.

"Ten years ago, when I started my journey to build a new team in Miami, I said that I dreamt of bringing the greatest players in the world to this amazing city, players who shared the ambition I had when I joined LA Galaxy to help grow football in the USA and to build a legacy for the next generation in this sport that we love so much," Beckham said in a statement.

"Today that dream came true.

"I couldn't be prouder that a player of Leo's calibre is joining our club ... The next phase of our adventure starts here and I can't wait to see Leo take to the pitch."

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino has managed Messi in two separate prior stints -- with Barcelona in the 2013/14 campaign, winning the 2013 Spanish SuperCup, and from 2014-2016 with the Argentina national team.

Maestro Messi captained the Albiceleste to victory at the 2021 Copa America as well as the Qatar World Cup and has records of 103 goals and 175 appearances for Argentina.

"We're overjoyed that the greatest player in the world chose Inter Miami and Major League Soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

"His decision is a testament to the momentum and energy behind our league and our sport in North America."

Messi is set for a glitzy arrival ceremony on Sunday at "The Unveil" with 18,000 expected to watch his first public event with his new club, followed by his first training session on Tuesday.

With Messi expected to be joined by Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, the hope is Inter Miami can rise from a doormat to a champion.

"Lionel Messi is an incomparable talent," said Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson. "What he brings on and off the field will elevate everyone around him."

Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and capped a trophy-laden career in Qatar late last year when he captained Argentina to a third World Cup triumph.

Updated: July 16, 2023, 4:21 AM