Lionel Messi's Deal With Inter Miami Is Wildly Unprecedented

Lionel Messi's Deal With Inter Miami Is Wildly Unprecedented

Earlier this year, we started hearing that Lionel Messi was not planning to return to Paris Saint-Germain. He joined the club in 2021 after nearly two decades with Barcelona, though despite a strong season, he was looking elsewhere. As time went on, the rumblings grew louder. Everyone had their ideas about where Messi would wind up.

Would Messi, a seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, join his rival Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia? Would he pick one of the top Premier or LaLiga clubs? Could he possibly head over to the U.S. and play in Major League Soccer?

The Saudis desperately tried to lure Messi to play with them. They offered him $400 million at first—nearly double what they're paying Ronaldo—and the offers only grew from there. Their final pitch? $1.6 billion over three seasons, per Front Office Sports. That would have paid Messi more than $500 million per season.

Yet Messi turned that offer down. Instead, he just signed a contract with Inter Miami of the MLS. His salary won't be nearly as large — thought it does offer him several ways to increase his wealth.

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According to the Miami Herald, Messi signed a "complicated" deal with Inter Miami. It'll pay him between $125 and $150 million over two-and-a-half seasons, with a player option for 2026.

However, there's more to the deal than just salary. Messi also has the option to buy a stake in a team once he retires. Any ownership wouldn't be subsidized by the league—something that happened when David Beckham bought the LA Galaxy in 2007—but would give Messi to continue earning after his playing days are done.

Messi has multiple sponsorship opportunities stemming from this deal, too. He signed a lifetime deal with Adidas in 2017, and the company is offering him profit-sharing on merchandise. Adidas already provides the balls and uniforms for all teams in MLS, and now one of the biggest stars in the world will be decked out in Adidas gear, all while earning money from people who want to buy his merch. If the team can translate Instagram followers into dollars, they'll be doing great. Inter Miami's followers doubled within 24 hours of the announcement of Messi's arrival.

Apple, which just released the first of a four-part documentary about Messi, announced they have an agreement with the star, as well. MLS Season Pass games will air on Apple TV+ for the next ten seasons. Apple paid $2.5 billion for that exclusive privilege, and now Messi will earn a portion of every subscription to MLS Season Pass.

Based on whether people already use Apple TV+, each MLS Season Pass subscriber will pay between $12.99 and $14.99 a month or $39 and $49 per season. Subscriber growth has apparently been slower than Apple expected to start the season, but Messi's arrival to the U.S. will likely bump that number up significantly. Even if his revenue cut is 10% of the subscriptions, Messi will be making a nice bonus of six or seven figures.

Should all go to plan, Messi will debut in an Inter Miami jersey on July 21. By then, he'll likely have earned quite a bit more money to add to his hefty salary. Now, his next step is taking Miami from the bottom of the table and turning them into a contender.

If anyone can do it, Messi can.