MLS: Lionel Messi contract and salary with Inter Miami?


With widespread reports that Lionel Messi has decided to sign for Major League Soccer club Inter Miami while rejecting a massive bid from Saudi Arabia, fans are clamoring to find out what was so tempting about the American league’s offer that they forced their hand.

The 35-year-old superstar was deciding on his next club after withdrawing from his contract with PSG after two years in the French capital.

Messi failed to win the Champions League during his time in Paris, but he was able to lead Argentina to triumph at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, proving that his skills are still at the top of the game.

Lionel Messi Inter Miami contract details

The details of Messi’s Inter Miami contract haven’t been publicized. Regardless, it stands to be a significant decrease in what he earned in two seasons with Ligue 1 team Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi signed a two-year deal with PSG in 2021 that reportedly saw him take home $41 million in annual net salary, including bonuses. The contract also included a $30 million signing bonus and a cut of profits from image rights, including jersey sales, that could bump his annual salary to $75 million.

MLS has a salary cap system that limits team’s spending to $5.21 million in 2023: That would result in a drastically reduced salary for Messi at Inter Miami. Conversely, he received a multi-year offer reportedly in excess of $1 billion to play in the Saudi Professional League.

Why then did Messi choose to sign with Inter Miami? A report from The Athletic indicates he has other non-MLS financial incentives to join the league.

That includes a share of revenue generated from new subscribers to MLS Season Pass, the league’s streaming package on Apple TV+. A similar arrangement is in place with Adidas — the MLS’s official outfitter — which reportedly will give Messi a cut of any increase in profits due to his joining.

Whether Messi commands a top-10 salary in MLS remains to be seen. Either way, he will be among the highest-paid athletes in the league.

MLS’s highest-paid players 2023

Here is a ranking of MLS’s top 10 highest-paid players for 2023, per the MLS Players Association (as of April 30, 2023). Players are listed in order of guaranteed salary:

Rank Player Club Base salary Guaranteed salary
1. Xherdan Shaqiri Chicago Fire $7.35 million $8.15 million
2. Lorenzo Insigne Toronto FC $7.5 million $7.5 million
3. Javier Hernandez Balcazar LA Galaxy $6 million $7.44 million
4. Federico Bernardeschi Toronto FC $3.13 million $6.30 million
5. Sebasitan Driussi Austin FC $3.8 million $6.02 million
6. Hector Herrera Houston Dynamo $4.75 million $5.25 million
7. Douglas Costa LA Galaxy $3 million $4.5 million
8. Luiz Araujo Atlanta United $3.6 million $4.48 million
9. Christian Benteke DC United $4.25 million $4.43 million
10. Josef Martinez Inter Miami $4 million $4.39 million

Will Lionel Messi have option to buy an MLS franchise?

When links between Lionel Messi and Inter Miami first surfaced over a year ago, there was some brief reporting that MLS had offered Messi some kind of ownership deal.

Most reports claimed that Messi would be offered a 35 percent stake in Inter Miami, while some speculated further that Major League Soccer could craft a similar franchise option to what David Beckham received when he joined in 2007, which allowed him to own an expansion team for just $25 million, a small fraction of the usual expansion fee.

The possibility of MLS giving Messi a Beckham-like offer to own a franchise is highly unlikely, as Major League Soccer has been very public about how difficult the logistics of such a partnership turned out to be.

However, it’s entirely possible that Messi has been offered a minority stake in the Miami club, either now or once he retires.

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