MLS could be 'flexible' to bring Lionel Messi to Inter Miami

Inter Miami
Inter Miami / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

In December, I argued Inter Miami should give up its pursuit of World Cup hero and galactic superstar Lionel Messi. I had good reasons, and I stand by them. But if Messi should decide to come to MLS, I'd rather have him suit up in Pink and Black than any other kit.

Evidently, Messi hasn't ruled out leaving Europe when his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires in June. But, despite turning 36 about the same time he becomes unemployed, competition for his services will be intense. Even in his dotage (sarcasm intended), Messi led Argentina to its third World Cup championship last year; he won his second World Cup Golden Ball and his seventh FIFA Best Men's Player award.

And the diminutive striker is playing better for PSG than he did a year ago, already scoring 18 goals in 29 total matches; he tallied just 11 goals in 34 matches in 2021-22.

It would be a dream to have Messi on Inter Miami

In an interview with The Athletic published last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the league is willing to work with Inter Miami to bring Messi -- who many observers believe to be the greatest soccer player ever -- to South Florida.

"You're dealing with perhaps the most special player in the history of the game," Garber told The Athletic. Bringing such a talent to North America would be a coup for MLS, bigger even than the deal that brought David Beckham to Los Angeles and gave him the opportunity to become Inter Miami's founding owner.

Signing Messi could cost more than Cristiano Ronaldo's $75 million deal in Saudi Arabia. That's a heretofore unimaginable salary for an MLS player; Lorenzo Insigne's $14 million deal with Toronto FC is double the previous league record.

So, landing Messi will require some creativity by MLS. Garber hinted that league Executive Vice President Todd Durbin is working with Herons' co-owner Jorge Mas to come up with something "outside of the box."

"We’re gonna have to structure a deal that’s going to compensate him in ways that he and his family expect," he added. "What that is? Honestly, we don’t know today, but he’s probably not going to be a (targeted allocation money) player.”

Messi coming to Inter Miami still feels like a longshot, but I have to admit I'm much more interested after reading Garber's remarks. I mean, he's Lionel Freakin' Messi, right?