Inter Miami target Lionel Messi rumored to be leaning toward Barcelona return

Inter Miami is among several clubs hoping to sign Argentine superstar Lionel Messi when his Paris St. Germain contract ends in June.
Inter Miami is among several clubs hoping to sign Argentine superstar Lionel Messi when his Paris St. Germain contract ends in June. / Daniel Jayo/GettyImages

Lionel Messi is King of the Soccer World; the longer he waits to announce whether he'll re-sign with Paris St. Germain or take his still considerable skills elsewhere, the more frenzied speculation about his future becomes.

At this writing, the World Cup hero appears to be leaning toward a reunion with Spanish super-club Barcelona, a team with which he contributed to almost 1,000 goals (672 goals, 303 assists) and won four UEFA Champions League trophies. Besides Barcelona and PSG, other suitors include the ridiculously wealthy Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, Major League Soccer as a bloc and, of course, our favorite Pink-and-Black bedecked South Florida squad, Club International de Futbol Miami.

I've made my case NOT to bring Messi to Miami, but I've also made my peace with the idea that it could happen. Not that I think it will, mind you, but it is within the realm of possibility. And, not only am I OK with that, I'd be as excited as anybody; he's arguably the single-greatest soccer player of this or any other generation.

The idea that the 29 MLS teams might share Messi's salary and the league would allow him to choose the club for which he wants to play made a brief splash earlier this month and we haven't heard much else, but that idea fascinates me. MLS is, after all, a single business entity with member franchises. Miami has a chance to be the big winner is such a scenario; Messi has a home here and often vacations in South Florida with his family.

The two Los Angeles and two New York club are possibilities, of course, but I doubt any other MLS market holds much attraction for the world's most famous footballer. It helps that Jorge and Jose Mas and David Beckham have maintained a relationship with Messi's team and made no secret of their desire to bring the star to Inter Miami. If Messi were to make the move to IMCF and the league's other 28 teams picked up part of the tab to help bolster the league's worldwide visibility and reputation, that's the cherry on top.

I'm following the same strategy I have for months now: managing my expectations. Inter Miami doesn't NEED Messi to build the team Beckham imagined when he set his sights on MLS ownership -- I'd prefer he build the team without shortcuts -- but he would further the cause by putting La RosaNegra squarely in the world's soccer spotlight, which could only be good for business while bringing a whole new level of pressure to perform.

Messi still is playing at a high level; I think it's more likely he will seek glory in Europe or his native Argentina than take on the grueling MLS travel schedule with so little (in international terms) available to him but, if he does, I'm here for it.