Lionel Messi’s decision to reject overtures from Barcelona and Saudi Arabia in favour of a move to American MLS club Inter Miami is proof he is surrounded by a very good supporting network. Congratulations to dad and agent Jorge Messi for putting his son’s mental well being and the future of his grand children ahead of all else. The staggering €350m pay packet offered by Al Hilal notwithstanding, prolonging his competition with longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Al Nassr wasn’t a great idea.
For all the positive vibes emanating from the Camp Nou administrative hierarchy and manager Xavi Hernandez, a return to Barcelona was never an option. It was more of a public relations window dressing stunt from president Joan Laporta. Messi’s 672 goals, 10 La Liga titles and seven Ballon D’Or evoke sweet dreams among Blaugrana’s faithful but a reunion would only have ended in disaster.
Barca simply cannot afford him as evidenced by the need to get rid of high earning veterans Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba in a season they recaptured the Liga Santander crown. Lest we forget, the 27 time La Liga champions are €1bn in debt but have closed the Camp Nou for renovations. Gate receipts at the Olympic Stadium won’t assuage losses made during 18 months of refurbishment because Blaugrana can only fit 50,000 fans at their temporary home. Renovation work is to increase the club’s debt by a further €1.5bn.
CR7 failed to read signs of the times when he swapped the weekly glare at Serie A giants Juventus for the microscopic scrutiny at Old Trafford. Few were surprised by his acrimonious departure. Messi’s age dictates that he must take one step back in order to take two steps forward. It would be foolhardy for him to subject himself to demands of the modern pressing game that proved to be Ronaldo’s undoing at Manchester United.
Busquets, Andreas Iniesta and Alba could join Messi at Inter Miami, recreating three quarters of the midfield quartet that mesmerised the football world for over a decade. The migration of so many stars to America’s MLS should give the division a boon not dissimilar to the one experienced when the great Pele joined Frank Beckenbauer at New York Cosmos in the 1970s. Messi is right to target a share of projected future TV revenue from Apple TV and a promise of ownership of a future franchise. Argentina’s World Cup winning captain has scored another winner. His future is secured for the foreseeable future.