Two reasons why Inter Miami shouldn't sign Lionel Messi
By Ken Garner
Repeat after me: The Herons do not NEED Lionel Messi. The HERONS do not NEED Lionel Messi. The Herons do NOT need Lionel Messi.
That sounds ridiculous, even to me. Messi is the greatest player in the galaxy; if the Herons have the opportunity and the wherewithal to bring Messi to Miami, why shouldn't they?
Two reasons: 1. What's best for Messi; 2. What's best for Inter Miami.
First things first: What does Messi gain by bringing his game to south Florida? There is no glory for Messi in North America. He proved in Qatar (and is proving in Paris) that, even at 35, he is an elite footballer. Leading Argentina to its third World Cup, and being named the tournament's most valuable player, should whet his appetite to continue playing at the game's highest levels.
Messi already is on a short list of players considered to be the greatest ever to kick a ball. As a fan of the game, I want to see him continue building that case. Messi is the only player ever to win two World Cup best player awards; if he maintains his fitness and avoids injury, why couldn't he hope to try for three? He has earned seven Ballon d'Or awards, presented annually to the world's best player, led Europe in scoring six times, and netted almost 800 goals for club and country.
He led Argentina to a Copa America title in 2021 (a tune-up for this year's World Cup success?), helped Barcelona to 10 La Liga titles and seven Copa del Rey trophies in Spain. He's playing brilliantly this year for a talent-laden Paris Saint-Germain side seeking its first-ever Champions League crown.
Multiple media reports claim Messi has agreed to extend his contract with PSG through summer 2024. As a fan, I hope that's true. Already this year, he has scored 12 goals and assisted on 14 others in 19 appearances for the high-profile Ligue 1 side that includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two of this generation's greatest attacking players.
Nothing Messi might accomplish in MLS will enhance his legacy. If he eventually does come to Miami, I'll be there to see him, to wish him well, to appreciate his greatness and whatever success he might bring to my beloved Herons, whether trophies, treasure or both. But my hope is that he continue to chase glory in Europe or play his final years in his native country or his beloved Barcelona. Time is his only rival now.
Reason two: What's best for Inter Miami.
So, I've just spent several hundred words telling you I believe Messi is perhaps THE greatest soccer player of all time. Why wouldn't I want him to play for my favorite team?
By all accounts, Messi is a good teammate. He isn't selfish, he doesn't demand the spotlight, he plays unselfishly and makes the players around him better. That's all well and good.
BUT, and there always is one, Miami is a young team built on unity through adversity, I love what Chris Henderson and Phil Neville did with this squad last year. Sure, some fair-weather, glass-half-empty fans will whine that New York City FC knocked the Herons out of the playoffs in the first round but, honestly, the Herons overachieved just making the playoffs.
Remember, facing financial penalties for some shady roster manoeuvres, Inter Miami had to cut much of its payroll and were without several of the biggest names from its first two seasons. The brain trust made some tough calls and, for the most part, they came good. The Herons build chemistry, character and the beginnings of a team identity last year, all things sorely lacking from their first two campaigns.
Imagine dropping Lionel Messi into the middle of that locker room. Think of the media circus, the constant distraction, the sheer gravity of adding a player of Messi's celebrity to the roster. Neville was a very good soccer player, but he's still somewhat unproven as a manager; how would Messi's presence affect his leadership? His decision-making?
David Beckham and the Mas brothers, Inter Miami's ownership group, have grand ambitions. They want Miami to be among the world's great soccer clubs, they unapologetically covet the world's greatest, most glamorous stars. Signing Messi, who often vacations in South Florida and has a home there, undoubtedly would boost the club's international profile and move merchandise, and might even improve the product on the pitch.
He might just as easily become bored and jaded; the Philadelphia Union, LAFC and Seattle Sounders can't begin to challenge his brilliance the way Real Madrid, Liverpool or Manchester City have in the past.
Or, he might find the rigors of MLS travel too much. It's hard to imagine, but Messi could fail in MLS as other international stars have. How might that affect Inter Miami's brand?
If Messi comes to Miami, I will cheer his efforts, buy his jersey and root for his success, but for the reasons above, I hope it doesn't happen.
Messi should continue to soar in soccer's heavens, and Inter Miami should commit itself to earning its reputation on the pitch. Winning games will always trump buying names in my book.