The World’s Greatest Soccer Player Comes to Florida

On Jun 7, 2023 35-year old Lionel Messi announced to the world that he was moving to South Florida to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami. The move sent a tidal wave across the soccer and sporting worlds, putting an exclamation point on an unprecedented sporting season in South Florida. We will have to wait to see what effects the biggest star of the world’s most popular sport will have on the local community, but they will likely be long-lasting.

Lionel Messi’s global popularity is hard to grasp. He moved from his native Argentina to Barcelona when he was just 13 years old and won the first of seven Ballon d’Or trophies, given to the best soccer player in the world, at 22. 

His teams have won La Liga titles and European Champions League trophies. Last year he led Argentina in its quest to recapture a World Cup. He is the highest-paid athlete in history. He is likely the most recognized athlete competing in the world today. 

Messi has 100 million more Instagram followers than there are people living in the United States. He has more social media followers than everyone in the NFL, combined.

Inter Miami

The signing of Messi was as much a league signing as it was an Inter Miami signing. As of this writing, details of his deal are still being worked out. However, it is believed that an ownership interest in the club, along with profit-sharing from merchandising and broadcast partners Adidas and Apple, will be part of the deal. While Messi will become the highest-paid player in MLS history, his earnings are a fraction of the reported $1 Billion+ offered to him by the Saudi Pro League. 

Messi’s joining Inter Miami was the culmination of a project that began shortly after David Beckham and his partners were awarded the MLS’s 25th franchise in 2018. Beckham and Messi are two of global soccer’s biggest stars and have known each other since Messi was a young boy. In a way, Messi is following in Beckham’s footsteps in his move to the United States just as Beckham followed the great Pelé, who played for the now-defunct New York Cosmos in the mid-1970s.

A Family Decision?

Inter Miami will continue to call DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale home for through the 2024 season. You might just see the “Atomic Flea” in the neighborhood. 

There is already a great deal of speculation about where Messi and his family will live when they move to South Florida. He is believed to own an apartment in the Porsche Design building in Sunny Isles Beach, however, with three young sons, he may be looking west to Spanish-friendly and family-friendly communities like Weston.

“I had offers from other European cubs but I didn’t even consider them because my idea was to go to Barcelona, and if it didn’t work out, analyzing it, I’d leave European soccer,” Messi said, “especially after winning the World Cup, which was what I was missing to close out my career on this side and experience the league in the United States…, another way and enjoy the day-to-day… of wanting to win and do the right thing, just with more tranquility.”  

Messi’s announcement capped off a year of unexpected success for South Florida Sports. This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four featured two teams from the local community, with the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University competing. Miami’s Women’s team also made it to the ‘Elite 8.’

We also watched both the Heat and Panthers get all teh way to the NBA and NHL finals. Needless to say, Messi’s arrival will energize Inter Miami fans and put pressure on the Dolphins to step up their game to the new South Florida standard. 

Welcome to Florida, Lionel and Antonela!