The final destination of Lionel Messi’s career is still very much up in the air. The legendary Argentine left his beloved Barcelona in the summer of 2021, much to his despair, with the Catalan giants in financial difficulties and unable to offer him a new contract at the end of 2021/22. In fact, few clubs could have afforded Messi at this stage, so it was no surprise to see Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) secure his signature on a highly lucrative two-year contract.
It’s almost 18 months into that deal now and already attention is turning to Messi’s next – and likely final – move in the summer of 2023. The 35-year-old looks highly unlikely to remain a PSG player beyond June 2023, having endured a difficult time in the French capital. It took him some time to adapt to Ligue 1 in 2021/22, scoring just six times in 26 appearances. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Messi landing another to add to his dozens of individual awards, with the French Football Ballon d’Or for 2021. This season, he has shown signs of returning to his best in 2022/23, scoring seven in 13 before joining up with his Argentinian team-mates in Qatar.
Messi’s 2022/23 Ligue 1 form gave Argentinians hope for this winter
Ahead of the 2022 World Cup break, PSG had opened up a five-point gap over second-placed RC Lens in Ligue 1. That gap stretches to ten points ahead of third-placed Rennes. It’s therefore no surprise that the bookmakers are effectively handing the cash-rich Parisian outfit the title with just 15 matches played. They’re priced as short as 1/100 for the championship with Betway.
This operator covers all the major leagues throughout Europe, as well as having a close handle on the lesser-known divisions across the continent. Their association with many top-flight clubs across England, Belgium and Germany has also strengthened their position as a market leader for sports betting in Europe, with more people increasingly using them as a benchmark.
The Jules Rimet trophy is one that has eluded Messi in his career to date. If he and Argentina can win the 2022 World Cup, he may even decide that retirement next summer is a possibility, with nothing left to prove or achieve in the game. Nevertheless, Messi is already attracting significant interest overseas, with a possible switch to Major League Soccer (MLS) in the offing.
Could David Beckham entice Messi across the Atlantic?
If reports are to be believed, the David Beckham-owned Inter Miami are working hard on putting a package together to entice Messi to Florida next summer. The Times says the deal would make Messi the highest-paid footballer in MLS history, eclipsing the basic salary of $14 million Toronto FC paid to Lorenzo Insigne. This would be an historic move, given that Messi will turn 36 around the time of the expiry of his current contract at PSG.
Reports also suggest that Inter Miami’s ownership group has already welcomed Messi’s father, who still represents him, to “numerous meetings” with the aim of encouraging all parties to reach a pre-contract agreement after the World Cup. If the deal comes to fruition, it’s likely that Messi would replace compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, who has retired from professional football at the end of the latest MLS season.
There are various reasons why a move to the MLS now would work for Messi. The league is due to get increased exposure from next season, with a broadcast rights deal agreed with Apple. The US is also building up to hosting part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, so soccer will be firmly ingrained in popular culture in the coming years. Inter Miami are hoping to entice Messi to head up the Miami Freedom Park development, with the Herons’ ambitious new stadium plans looking to establish Beckham’s club as an elite MLS franchise.
Critics will feel that Messi could still ply his trade in a top European league. Some have always wondered why he’s never tried his hand at the English Premier League, unlike long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored goals for Manchester United in both spells at Old Trafford.
However, to move to the Premier League at the age of 36 would be a huge risk for his legacy, even if his career statistics show that he’s performed impressively against Premier League sides. If Messi can help build the foundations for Inter Miami and enhance the broader image of soccer in the United States ahead of the next World Cup, it could be a fruitful mission for all concerned.