Before we dive into Sutton’s comments on his brand-spanking new podcast, Mail Sport’s It’s All Kicking Off, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the reality of the sports entertainment industry: Every outlet is trying to get your attention. Take our word for it.
So, what did the former Blackburn and Celtic player have to say? Here’s a breakdown using quotes reported by the British news company, The Mirror.
On Messi’s impact on Major League Soccer
Asked whether Messi’s choice to play at Inter Miami would give the league long-term credibility, Sutton said, “I think the MLS would like to think so, but I don't think it will long term. Short term, they'll have the Messi phase. And then when he's had enough, it will go back to what it was before. It's a league for, dare I say, washed up players. For European players who want to go to America for the lifestyle with the families at the end of their career."
IH: To be fair, this statement isn’t entirely unfounded; MLS has had a fair number of internationally known stars shine brightly and briefly without making a lasting impact on the league. Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Kaka…I’m sure Inter Miami fans can add to this list. Of all the aging stars, Messi’s new boss, David Beckham, can claim to have changed the league. MLS was struggling when he arrived at L.A. Galaxy in 2007; the glamorous, talented, charismatic footballer became a key contributor to a Galaxy dynasty and, like Magic, Larry and Michael did for the NBA a quarter century earlier in the NBA, he helped not only save the league, but help it grow and stabilize.
Messi doesn’t have to save MLS, it’s doing quite well, thank you. It is hoped that his mere presence in the league and the weight of his celebrity will force MLS to significantly change how it does business, allowing teams more flexibility to hire top players and tweaking its schedule and practices to align more closely with the rest of the soccering world.
Maybe it’s unfair, but if some dramatic changes aren’t made to make MLS more competitive with the European and South American leagues, the Messi Experience could be just another wonderful few years when a retirement league captured the world’s attention.
On Messi choosing Inter Miami over Barcelona
"He's washed up for him, isn't he? He's still good, but you know, he's washed up. Just as Ronaldo is washed up going to the Saudi Pro League. They're not the players which they once were, because (in their prime) they wouldn't go there.
"(Messi is) coming to the end of his career. He's not the player which he once was, because if he had serious ambition, he would have gone back to Barcelona. I mean, Inter Miami, it's great. Go over there and take the accolade and raise the profile for a bit. And he's still a great player and he's going to attract the crowds."
" I mean, Inter Miami, it's great. Go over there and take the accolade and raise the profile for a bit."- Chris Sutton, It’s All Kicking Off
IH: This may be a harsh take on Messi and his arch-rival. Both undoubtedly are nearing the end of their careers, their physical skills beginning to diminish, but “washed up”?
And, maybe I’m being defensive, but who decides one’s ambition? A talking head on a TV or device? Or one’s self, in consultation with one’s family. Does Sutton think Messi has anything left to prove in Europe? In the world? Maybe his challenge is first and foremost to build a home in which he and his family can be happy. Or, like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, Messi has business ambitions after retirement; maybe he’s positioning himself for an executive role with IMCF or, maybe, like his boss, he will one day operate his own soccer team.
As long as Messi continues playing like he has so far, I don’t care about his ambitions.
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