Lionel Messi rejects Saudi Arabia's £320m-a-year deal and joins Inter Miami instead

Lionel Messi - Lionel Messi rejects Barcelona return and Saudi offer to join Inter Miami - Getty Images/Alain Jocard
Lionel Messi - Lionel Messi rejects Barcelona return and Saudi offer to join Inter Miami - Getty Images/Alain Jocard

Lionel Messi says he decided to move to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer - snubbing Barcelona as well as Saudi Arabia riches in the process - because he wanted a ‘calmer’ life.

The 35-year-old, who had been considering football’s most lucrative salary to join the Saudi Pro League, will instead join the MLS team co-owned by David Beckham when his contract at Paris Saint-Germain runs out this summer.

“I made the decision that I am going to go to Miami,” Messi said in an interview with Spanish publications Mundo Deportivo and Sport.

“I still haven’t closed it one hundred per cent. I’m missing some things, but we decided to continue on the path.

“After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the league of the United States to live football in another way and to enjoy the day to day more. Obviously, with the same responsibility and desire to play well and do things well as always. But in a calmer way.”

Messi will be alongside team-mates at the other end of the pay scale to PSG and Barcelona following his move. MLS publishes salaries, with junior members of Inter’s squad earning just £54,000 per year.

Their top earner is Josef Martinez on a base salary of £3.525 million a season. Messi’s deal, however, is expected to see him collaborate with Apple, which has commissioned a four-part documentary series about him, and long-time kit sponsor Adidas. Apple and MLS signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to be the exclusive broadcast partner of the league last year.

The Saudi Arabian government had prepared a deal worth about £320 million a year for him to join Cristiano Ronaldo in the Middle East. The Saudis have targeted high-profile European-based players, with Wilfried Zaha and N’Golo Kante in their sights for lucrative moves to leave the Premier League and see out their careers alongside Ronaldo. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema has agreed to move to Al-Ittihad from Real Madrid.

Messi was already the highest-profile “ambassador” for the Saudi Tourism Authority and it wanted the Argentine to play his club football in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is set to bid for the 2030 World Cup as joint hosts, while the US, Mexico and Canada will share staging of the 2026 tournament, which is an opportunity to give MLS exposure with Messi playing for Inter.

Messi spent two seasons in France, where he won Ligue 1 in both campaigns after leaving Barcelona in 2021. The club he joined as a boy had agreed a new contract for him to stay at the Camp Nou but the terms did not pass La Liga’s financial regulations and Messi moved to Paris instead.

His return to the club where he won his seven Ballon d’Or awards had been floated by the Catalan club since his departure, but was dramatically ruled out as Messi decided his future. Inter Miami have had a long-standing interest in bringing Messi to the United States and making him a face for the sport ahead of the World Cup in three years’ time.

Messi’s new club are bottom of the Eastern Conference in the US and have just sacked Phil Neville as manager. Javier Morales is their interim head coach.