Lionel Messi: Inter Miami move heralds landmark moment for MLS

2M446MR Lusail, Qatar. 18/12/2022, Lionel Messi of Argentina with the World Cup trophy during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match, Final, between Argentina and France played at Lusail Stadium on Dec 18, 2022 in Lusail, Qatar. (Photo by Bagu Blanco / PRESSIN) Credit: PRESSINPHOTO SPORTS AGENCY/Alamy Live News

Lionel Messi is heading to Inter Miami and the MLS after rejecting a big-money offer from Saudi Arabia and with a dream return to Barcelona thwarted by the realities of the club's struggles with La Liga's regulations.

Arguably, the greatest player of all time moving to the MLS will make an immeasurable impact to Inter Miami and the MLS as a whole off the pitch. Interest in the league will only continue to grow now one of the most famous faces on the planet will be lacing up every week for the club where David Beckham serves as president and co-owner.

Messi’s decision will be financially lucrative with his contract reported to include part-ownership options of Inter Miami along with a cut of Apple TV’s streaming revenue from its MLS coverage.

While some will see this as a commercial move, Messi still has a lot to offer on the pitch. The Argentine captain led his country to World Cup glory in Qatar and was ranked by PFF as the best player at the tournament. The 35 year-old’s impressive performances were reflected by his elite PFF grades, with his 91.2 shooting grade ranking fourth at the World Cup and his 99.3 passing grade ranking first.

After a disappointing first season for Paris Saint Germain in 2021/22, Messi was back to performing like one of the best players in the world again this season and dominated Ligue 1. His PFF passing grade of 99.6 was by far the highest in the league. Only one other player – Marco Verratti — graded above 84.0 at 90.7.

A PFF shooting grade of 95.9 for Messi ranked second in Ligue 1 behind Marseille's Alexis Sanchez (99.1), though his 103 shot events is almost double that of the former Arsenal striker's 53.

Renowned as one of the best dribblers in the world, Messi’s PFF dribbling grade of 90.2 ranked first while his PFF crossing grade of 89.3 ranked fourth in the league. Messi is still elite at everything once he has the ball at his feet, even at this later stage in his career, and has a strong chance to win his eighth Ballon d’Or later this year.

Name PFF shooting grade PFF crossing grade PFF dribbling grade
Lionel Messi 95.9 89.3 90.2
Kylian Mbappé 85.3 70 62.1
Neymar 87.1 82 69.4

Messi’s time with Paris Saint Germain will likely be looked back on with some regrets after failing to win the Champions League alongside fellow superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, but he ultimately leaves Paris with back-to-back league titles and will undoubtedly be looking to bring that winning mentality to Miami.

With their current roster, winning the MLS with Inter Miami might be a bigger challenge than winning the World Cup was. Inter Miami currently sit bottom of the Eastern Conference and their coach Phil Neville was fired last week. Nobody on the roster has a PFF grade above 80.0 in shooting, passing or challenge facets this season. 

The addition of Messi alone will dramatically improve the quality of a team who sent designated player Rodolfo Pizarro on loan to Monterrey last season, and who have struggled to create chances for Leonardo Campana and Josef Martínez.

Without a doubt convincing Messi to sign is an incredible coup for Inter Miami and the MLS, and the benefits will be seen for years to come.

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