June 2023 is a good month for Southern Florida sports.
Despite the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers both competing in the finals of their respective leagues, the state’s biggest sporting news is Inter Miami CF’s signing of superstar forward Lionel Messi.
Messi announced the change on in an interview with Mundo Deportivo, a sports news outlet in Spain.
“I made the decision that I will go to Miami,” Messi said in the interview, as translated by Scroll reporter Brogan Houston. “I don’t have (the deal) closed yet. I need a few things but we decided to continue down that path. If it didn’t work out with Barcelona, I wanted to leave Europe, leave the focus and think more of my family.”
FC Barcelona, for whom Messi played 18 seasons, had reportedly tried to bring him back this year. Messi stated in the interview that the club would have had to sell various players in order to make room for him, and he didn’t want to be part of that.
Messi played the past two seasons for Paris Saint-Germain, but elected not to return this year.
Inter Miami finished in last place in the Eastern Conference and third-last in the MLS this year. With this move, the club hopes to have a better outcome next year.
ESPN reports that Messi’s deal includes part-ownership of Inter Miami, as well as part of the league’s revenue generated from Apple TV’s MLS Season Passes. This is similar to the deal that David Beckham got when he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007.
In addition to the recent success of the Heat and the Panthers, other parts of Florida have also seen relative success in major sports. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021, then lost in the Final in 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2020 and the Tampa Bay Rays lost the World Series in 2020 — the same year that the Heat lost in the NBA Final.
Inter Miami hopes to add to the list of successful Floridian sports teams. No team from Florida has ever competed for the MLS Cup.