The 'Lionel Messi to Inter Miami' train has been on the tracks for some time now, especially since it became clear towards the end of his Barcelona tenure that he wouldn't be the one-club man so many had imagined.
That 18-month long saga ended with the Argentine signing with Paris Saint-Germain in an attempt to win his first Champions League title since – somehow – 2015. That contract only has the 2022/23 season remaining on it though, and there has been plenty of speculation about Messi's next move, with nobody in Miami shying away from admitting they'd love the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to take his talents to South Beach.
CEO Jorge Mas said as much to Catalan newspaper Sport, telling them in July: "When one talks about the best players in the world, Leo is obviously the best player on the planet. We hope the conditions are there for him to be here, playing with the Inter Miami jersey in the United States. We aspire to that. We hope the circumstances are favorable."
All of that optimism aside though, new reports have come out in the last week that Barcelona are growing confident of luring Messi back to Camp Nou in a year's time, when his deal with PSG ends, with the aim of having him retire at the club where he broke through.
Lionel Messi may snub Inter Miami to rejoin Barcelona
That's a huge blow for Inter Miami, who might have only been concerned with competing against the likes of his boyhood club Newell's Old Boys for the right to see one of the all-time greats play out the end of his career in front of their fans.
Is it a disaster to miss out on a year or two of Messi? It's certainly possible to level the accusation at Inter Miami of being the 'retirement home' stereotype that MLS is trying hard to break away from. That they're using the connections and commercial pull of owner David Beckham to bring in big names whose performance don't match their salaries.
There hasn't been value for money from the club's DPs this season. Gonzalo Higuain (34) started the season making nearly twice as much as anyone else on the roster, but has started just ten of 24 games. The club are paying Blaise Matuidi (35) $1.5m not to be on the roster this year. Alejandro Pozuelo is the lone DP pulling his weight...in the five games since he arrived from Toronto.
The culture in the 305 needs a shake-up, and the backroom staff need to start thinking bottom-up, not top-down. Messi would be better than Higuain and Matuidi, but enough to justify the staggering amounts of money he'd ask for? He's making well over $50m a year before taxes in France, and that's a reduction on his Barcelona salary and not counting his millions in yearly bonuses.
It could be another case of 'big name comes in to sell the Inter Miami brand' without any thought to actual roster development or even medium-term planning. If Beckham, Mas and co. are serious about building a real sporting project, Messi going back to Catalunya might not be the worst thing in the world.