How much easier it would have been if everyone had listened to Ferran Soriano in 2005. Barcelona would have a solution to its salary crisis, MLS would have a better deal with broadcasters, and Messi would know precisely what he would do after Barca.
But the conservatives from Catalonia insisted on their own, and the commercial director did not sign a contract with the head of the MLS, Don Garber. This agreement would have marked the creation of a New York version of Barcelona. Eight years will pass, and Soriano will successfully share his idea with Manchester City.
So there is no Barcelona franchise in the US, and Messi is gone. We discussed where he would be next for a long time, and even options with the MLS surfaced, but the Argentine is not yet ready to say goodbye to European football. But in the future — entirely. Everything indicates that he is already thinking about this option. So let’s look at the most realistic options.
Plan A: Miami
Messi loves Florida, but he is always welcome there.
After finally winning America’s Cup, Leo and Luis Suarez went to Key Biscayne, an island town with costly real estate in the southeast of Miami. This is not the first time Messi has been here: he obviously likes it here. The sun is shining, everyone speaks Spanish, and there are no eternal paparazzi and fans on the streets.
And David Beckham’s Inter, launched in 2020 after many years of preparation, is also playing here. He went to this for a long time: it all started with his transfer to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007-then. He received the highest salary in the history of the league and the right to buy a team outside of New York for $ 25 million. For comparison, the owners of “Charlotte”, which will become the 28th franchise of the MLS, paid 325 million. Beckham is not a fool.
However, he can’t be proud of his guys so far: Inter is famous for the highest salaries in the country… and nothing else. But, unfortunately, the team is terrible and plays very severely.
The club itself belongs to Beckham, Jorge and Jose Masam-Cuban-American brothers, who own the construction company MasTec, a Japanese billionaire and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son and Marcelo Claire-the CEO of the aforementioned bank.
The terrible results clarify why Klaure, who previously did a lot for Inter, is selling 50% of his shares. The Mas brothers can buy them out for 270 million. If they do, the cost of the new team will be estimated at $ 540 million — an incredible amount for a team in the league whose television rights are worth less than the rights to the Championship.
Anyway, at the moment, it is most likely that the shares will go to either the Saudi sheikh or an Argentine consortium that wants to make Messi the face of its brand. This makes sense: Messi is famous in the United States. It seems to many the same push that will allow the MLS to raise the bar and attract more investors and better players.
AJ Suoboda, managing director of the consulting agency Twenty-First Group, believes that the arrival of Messi “will change everything.” Moreover, there are many indications that Messi himself wants to move. For example, his older brother Rodrigo works at KIN Partners — a talent agency run by Beckham’s ex-agent Simon Oliveira. Rodrigo is the CEO of Lionel Messi Sports Management, and Inter uses KIN Partners to find new sponsors.
Everything seems to fit… except for one thing. Not even one.
In the United States, there is a rule that allows three players in a team to earn significantly more than teammates, and at the same time, a high salary can easily break through the salary “ceiling”, which is strictly here. But even with this rule, Messi’s requirements are such that no one in the United States can even come close to them. Last season, he earned the same amount at Barca as the five largest clubs in the country spend on salaries! Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez, the highest-paid players, earned six million dollars — one-tenth of what Messi would have received.
Inter also violated the number of players: having signed one more player, the club is now forced to operate for two years with a noticeably reduced budget.
Well, the question is: does Inter need two-star faces to advertise itself? There is still a Beckham here. And does Adidas want its two big clients to work on the same coast and in the same city?
Plan B: Las Vegas
Not so long ago, a big football event was held in the suburbs of Las Vegas-the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It was held at the Las Vegas Raiders stadium, and more than 61 thousand people came to the match. Even Don Garber was impressed by the excitement caused by the event.
Vegas has been actively manifesting itself in the sports arena in recent years, trying to acquire new clubs and teams. For example, the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team was born, and it is rumoured that the Oakland Athletics baseball team will also move here. Well, boxing has been held here for many years.
Do you need land for a new stadium? No questions, there is a lot of this stuff here. Do you want a permit for a hotel and a conference centre? There is nothing easier, hotels in Vegas love.
At the beginning of the year, such conversations would not have been conducted because the MLS already had newcomers for debuts in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Still, in February, the Sacramento Republic decided to withdraw from the project. And then every city on the waiting list rushed to do something. Among them are Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Louisville, Phoenix and San Diego.
In the USA and Vegas, they still remember Beckham’s influence on the league, but in Messi, it seems to them even more of a star. And they have already made attempts to attract the Argentine: during the Sunday cup, there was a meeting between the mayor of the city Carolyn Goodman, Jorge Messi, the father of the football player, and representatives of various interested parties.
Various things were discussed: whether the brand-new “Elite Stadium” is suitable for MLS, how long it will take the city to create professional football conditions, and the chances of development for the “Las Vegas Lights”.
The club is owned by Brett Lashbrook, who is desperately trying to turn Vegas into a sports capital. Cheap tickets, free tacos, llama mascots — he tried everything. Once, he even flew over the fans in a helicopter and sprinkled them with banknotes.
Their stadium, Cashman Field, boasts only two bleachers because it was built for baseball, but even with this disadvantage, Lashbrook tried to turn it into a plus, allowing fans to park right next to the football field and watch the game like this. He even put several swimming pools at the edge.
A great attempt, but the stadium is still without a roof, rain cover, drainage, and only 9 thousand seats. Its primary value is the land on which it stands. The fact is that it is located very close to the Las Vegas Strip — a seven-kilometre section of Las Vegas Boulevard, where the most prominent hotels and casinos are located.
American billionaire Seth Klarman has already thought about dealing with such a shiny piece of real estate, but he is not the only shark friendly with the mayor. And if Messi suddenly appears in the city, there will be no way to fight off investors.
“Miami and Las Vegas are the most obvious places for Messi in the future,” according to Deloitte.
The question remains: if Barcelona, the largest team in Europe, cannot afford it, then how will the MLS club allow it?
“The fact is that the MLS model is very competent from a financial point of view, but the rules and exceptions allow you to get out very cleverly. If necessary, they will find a way to circumvent all the prohibitions. It’s always like this.”
Suoboda is sure that the MLS will not miss the opportunity to get Messi. On the contrary, it will attract new viewers, conclude new broadcasting contracts and reach new fans. Especially considering that there are many Spanish speakers, and they are already actively watching football on TV.
Messi, most likely, will also be offered a future franchise — it was a ride with Beckham. They can give him a part of the club itself, as was the case with Didier Drogba and Phoenix Rising. In other words, if the Argentine is not against this idea, the Americans will achieve their goal even if you have to rewrite all the rules again. The league is young, nothing terrible — not for the first time.
Let’s go back to Soriano and his idea to turn Barcelona into an American franchise. In 2009, he wrote and published the book “Goal: The ball flies into the goal for a reason”, and 12 months later, he left the club. The book, by the way, was advertised by Messi himself — it is “excellent”, in his words.
In it, you can read about how Soriano attended the MLS Cup final between the New England Revolution and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Then he was most surprised by how the audience lined up for hot dogs even after the start of the match. It was not at all like the scenes in the European stands. “No crazy emotions or tantrums of losers for you. Not a single tear on the faces of the fans. It’s just a match, just entertainment to distract yourself. And no more.”