Lionel Messi named Time magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023

Argentina captain has 'managed to do what once seemed impossible: turning the US into a soccer country'

Lionel Messi has made an instant impact at Inter Miami since joining from French club Paris Saint-Germain. AFP
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Lionel Messi has been named Time magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023 to cap off a memorable year for the Argentina captain.

After guiding Argentina to World Cup success in Qatar almost 12 months ago, Messi won a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or and has helped elevate football in the US since moving to Inter Miami over the summer.

Messi, 36, had no shortage of suitors when he announced he would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year, with former club Barcelona as well as Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund-backed Al Hilal declaring their interest.

Instead, he chose a move to Major League Soccer to join the Inter Miami revolution co-owned by former Manchester United and England midfielder David Beckham.

"The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyse them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami," Messi told Time.

"Messi managed to do what once seemed impossible: turning the US into a soccer country," Time wrote.

Messi made an instant impact at Miami, scoring 10 goals in seven Leagues Cup appearances as he spurred them to victory in the tournament for the club's first-ever title, which features MLS teams as well as sides from Mexico.

The Argentine's arrival in the US also made waves off the pitch, causing a massive spike in searches for match dates and tickets to see him in action, with fans also buying up his official pink Inter Miami shirt.

Ahead of his Miami debut, Apple TV recorded a surge in subscriptions with 110,000 sign-ups to MLS Season Pass – the US football body's streaming service – according to subscription analytics company Antenna.

Simone Biles, LeBron James and the United States women's soccer team have won the award in recent years, with Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees winning in 2022.

Updated: December 06, 2023, 6:29 AM