Lionel Messi’s new contract at Barcelona will map out the final years of his glittering playing career and is expected to include a two-year spell in MLS with Inter Miami, starting in 2023, before returning to Camp Nou as some kind of ambassador or executive.
In Barca president Joan Laporta’s own words, the contract talks are ‘going well’ but it is ‘not done’. However, for all intents and purposes, it looks as though Messi will be staying at the club for the rest of his career in Europe, less than a year after he formally asked to leave last August.
It is a coup for Barca as it means Messi staying until he is almost 36.
A spell in the United States had already been discussed in previous reports on Messi’s future. But SPORT has taken the story on by now specifically naming Inter Miami, the MLS club which is part owned by David Beckham and has created an image built in local Latin American culture.
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Messi himself has previously expressed a desire to play in the United States at some point before he retires and this allows him to tick that box. Prior reporting has also suggested he could still continue to serve Barca during that spell as some kind of club ambassador in North America.
“I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there," he said last December during a famous interview with La Sexta.
Former Argentina international Matias Almeyda, who is head coach at MLS club San Jose Earthquakes, has also previously talked up Messi moving stateside, largely because he thinks the superstar could enjoy a more peaceful and more normal life in America.
"Do you know why I think it's a good idea? Because the U.S. is a big country,” Almeyda told 90min.
“It has 350m inhabitants, I think. The stars here can walk in peace in the street. Each person who wants a life can enjoy what he likes [and] will live a different life.
“For [Messi], for his children, for his wife, he will be able to walk, to ride a bicycle, he will be able to go to the supermarket. He won't be under that fame that turns you into a slave, you know? That's why I think [USA] could be a good place for him."
The proposed deal would be a two-year spell with Miami, which would be likely to run until the end of the 2025 MLS season in November or December. By then, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner would be 38 and perhaps ready to hang up his boots to end what will then be a 21-year career.
After that, the path for Messi would be back to Camp Nou and Barcelona, the city he has called home for well over half his life. According to SPORT, that post-playing role would be as a ‘strategic partner’ of the club. He would be involved with starting new projects to further Barca’s global appeal, although he could also have some degree of influence over sporting aspects as well.
Overall, his new contract with Barca stands to be 10 years in length.