*Written by Daksh Gautam
Global Football superstar Lionel Messi shocked the world when he announced his move to American MLS side Inter Miami, during the first week of June. The Argentine maestro was dubbed to return to Barcelona, the club where he played for the majority of his career. Messi’s Father who is also his agent revealed that there was interest from the USA as well as Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal. The Saudi Arabian club offered Messi a humongous contract that netted him approximately 1.2 bn Euros over the two years of his contract . The ex-PSG forward however, was not lured by the contract provided by Al-Hilal and his agent clarified that the decision was to be made between Barcelona and Inter Miami . Messi’s move to Barcelona collapsed due to the club’s insufficient finances and inability to sell players on the payroll to make space for Messi on the wage bill, as a conclusion of these events, Messi ended up joining The MLS side (Inter Miami). While Messi claims the reason to join the Miami based club is for the comfort of his family, his contract with the American side will net him 48 million euros per year.
Messi has signed a deal with the American side for 2 and a half years and is earning 125 Million euros throughout the length of the contract which also includes bonuses such as winning trophies, milestones such as a certain number of Goals and Assists. A major part of Messi’s contract that allows for potential earning is Adidas and Apple providing a share of their earned revenue. The MLS runs a streaming package on Apple TV which involves fans paying a fee to watch the entire season of MLS. Messi is also set to receive a share of the revenue generated by these subscriptions following his arrival. There is a similar agreement with Adidas, that allows for profit sharing among them and Messi. The German sportswear brand supplies kits to all 29 teams in the division. . Another part of Messi’s contract that allows him to earn money despite the league’s cost cap regulation is him receiving a percentage of ownership of Inter Miami. The Argentine star has signed a 2and a half year deal, he also has the option to sign an extension with the American side, if he wishes to play in the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted in USA, Canada and Mexico. Messi will be registered as Designated Player in the club which allows him to earn more than the Salary cap imposed by the division. Prior to Messi’s signing Inter Miami’s three designated players were Josep Martinez, Rodolfo Pizzaro and Gregore, however, Gregore is likely to be changed to a standard roster player in order to compensate .
Why is MLS attractive to Ageing superstars?
The MLS has been able to land the signing of Lionel Messi but prior to that, the league has always been an attractive prospect for ageing superstars, players such as the likes of Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham, Kaka, Steven Gerrard, Nani, Gareth Bale, Chiellini. Some of the reasons for the players to choose the US may be a better lifestyle for their families or the league not being as cutthroat as Europe but still maintaining a competitive level, however a major reason for players to join the league is to earn money in forms of bonuses which include club revenue percentage, jersey sale Percentage, ticket sales revenue percentage and mainly the Designated player Rule introduced by the league in 2007 in order to sign English Superstar David Beckham, this rule allows all teams to have three players on their roster who will not be considered on the team’s salary cap, allowing teams to sign and acquire high-profile players from the overseas. Along with this, MLS has been home to lucrative contracts such as Beckham’s contract in 2007 wherein his annual salary was stated to be 6.5 Million but his deal also included a percentage of the team’s revenue and another clause which allowed him to acquire a MLS expansion team for just 25Million upon his retirement . This lucrative contract led to The MLS becoming an attractive prospect for ageing players.
The world of football has transformed a lot over the years and as of now one can see that cash has indeed become king with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar owning clubs such as Manchester City, Newcastle and PSG. One can even see the amount of money being invested to popularize and attract talent, overall develop the footballing system of the aforementioned countries with Saudi’s PIF buying 75% stake in four of its clubs, namely Al Nassr, Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli  to attract superstars such as the likes of Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ngolo Kante, etc. This also allows players to earn humongous salaries which is unprecedented in Europe . The biggest reason for players to move out of Europe is to earn money through the Lucrative contracts provided by these nations, the biggest of which has been Cristiano Ronaldo’s to Al Nassr wherein the Portuguese earns an annual salary of 200 Million Dollars and Messi’s to Inter Miami allowing him to earn money despite the cost cap regulations of the league with the help of shares in revenue. This leads to these countries becoming a threat to European football which is regarded by many as the pinnacle of football around the world. The signing of the two of the biggest names in the sport can cause a ripple effect and lead to a shift in the power order which is held by European footballing Leagues for so long.
*The author is a journalism scholar from Mumbai University,
(The image used here is for representative purposes only)