By the time Lionel Messi makes his debut for Inter Miami on July 21, even the gold standard that is the English Premier League and La Liga will have to take a back seat to the new football revolution happening stateside.
North America will be the epicenter of the football universe as its brightest star takes center stage. To put it into perspective: the cheapest ticket at the DRV PNK stadium, Inter’s home ground, has spiked almost 1000% since Messi committed to the Miami project.
Barcelona is the big loser in the Lionel Messi transfer
After his all-conquering World Cup heroics, many expected the Argentine talisman to return to his beloved Barcelona to continue his unique legacy.
However, the financial troubles which forced his exit were still prevalent as he ended his eventful stint in the French capital. Rather than be a burden on his friends and teammates who might have been forced to take pay cuts, he opted for a new challenge in Major League Soccer.
Instead of respecting his decision and celebrating his achievements at the Blaugrana, Barça president Joan Laporta chose to aim a subtle dig at Messi, questioning the competitiveness of the MLS. The tone of the comment was rightly ridiculed by fans and the media, as Laporta’s disrespect for Barça’s greatest player was a big part of La Pulga’s acrimonious exit.
Messi’s potential impact on US football
The soccer revolution in America has its roots decades before the MLS. Back in the 1970s, the North American Soccer League was the vehicle that brought some of the world’s best players to its nascent soccer culture.
Notable names from Europe and South America, including Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, and the jewel in the crown, Pele, had stints with the local clubs as the game grew exponentially through savvy marketing and the gradual acceptance of the game at the grassroots level.
While there are similarities to the recent influx of foreign players, the arrival of Messi could be a seminal moment in the history of soccer in the United States.
Unlike the stars of yesteryear who were creeping past their primes, using their US sojourn as a final career payday, Messi is still in his prime and had his pick of European suitors. He may not be at his absolute peak like his heady Barcelona days, but this version of Messi can still impact a game with a feint of his hips and his extraordinary vision.
However, his most profound impact might be opening the floodgates for a host of European stars to choose MLS over Saudi Arabia and other cash-flush Middle Eastern leagues.
Expect an invasion from across the pond and South America as stars choose to play with the ultimate superstar. Former teammates and rivals such as Suarez, Isco, Alba, Busquets and Di Maria. The possibilities are endless. What a time to call America home.