The groundworks for Lionel Messi’s blockbuster free transfer to Inter Miami this summer were laid four years ago when the MLS franchise’s co-owner, David Beckham, snuck into the 36-year-old’s dad’s hotel in Barcelona for a meeting. Miami were able to fend off ridiculous riches on offer in Saudi Arabia, as well as a fairytale return to Barca to get the World Cup-winning Argentine to sign on the dotted line.
“When I started this journey, ten years ago, announcing that I was starting a team in Miami, my vision was always to bring the best players,” Beckham recalled, in a roundtable discussion with Jamie Carragher, Ian Wright, and Jill Scott. He added: “I suppose as an owner of a team, you always want to bring in the best players, but the chance of bringing in the best, is difficult and always challenging.
“But then, I sneaked into Messi’s dad’s hotel about four years ago in Barcelona for a meeting with him and obviously, at that point, we weren’t ready to bring him in and he wasn’t ready to come. I turned around to his dad and said, ‘We want your son, we want him to come to Miami when he’s ready, and if that’s a possibility’. We continued the conversations, and with my partners, Jorge Mas and Jose [Mas], we just worked on it for about four years.”
Messi’s impact on the pitch is clear: He has 11 goals and five assists in 12 games and helped the franchise win the Leagues Cup. The soccer legend is also unbeaten when turning out for Inter Miami. But Messi’s impact stretches far beyond Miami’s first team – it has spread across the franchise and across the country, with all eyes on the MLS.
“To bring someone like him to the club, we knew it would change the club and we knew it would change the league and the sport – but it’s beyond that,” Beckham said. “What he does on the pitch, what he does off the pitch, for the young kids – to bring somebody in like him is the dream, also Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.”
The Manchester United, Real Madrid, and England legend added: “To bring in Leo has changed everything. The academy kids have someone to look up to, who has done everything, won everything, and he’s teaching them, which is amazing.”
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Miami were bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference before Messi’s arrival but they now find themselves four points off ninth place with four games to go. The franchise also has a game or two in hand on a number of teams above them also fighting for a postseason spot.
The attacker has, however, struggled with injuries in recent weeks. He was absent from Miami’s US Open Cup Final loss to Houston Dynamo.
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