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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Messi’s Debut MLS Season Ends With Big Questions

  • Initial furor fades as MLS club concludes league season with a whimper
  • Argentinian superstar to turn 37 next season, amplifying fitness, injury concerns
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Year One of Lionel Messi’s MLS adventure is now over, ending much more quietly than it began and leaving big questions ahead for both Inter Miami and the Argentinian superstar.

Messi and Inter Miami ended their 2023 regular season on Saturday in Charlotte, losing 1-0. After a furious beginning to Messi’s U.S. professional play that included a Leagues Cup championship, a 12-match unbeaten run, and elevated attendance, MLS Season Pass subscriptions, and merchandise sales across the league, Inter Miami finished winless in its final six league matches, and well out of a playoff spot, while Messi himself battled nagging leg injuries and missed several games.

“The team was exhausted. That’s no excuse. That’s the reality,” said Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

The club will make its first-ever foreign tour next month, playing two exhibition matches in China, and Messi is expected to be part of that.

But looking ahead to next season, concerns are growing around what was initially a purely joyous situation regarding Messi. The superstar will turn 37 next season, and it remains unclear whether Messi will be able to handle the full rigors of another long season. 

“We have to be very precise over the next few months about how we will approach next season,” Martino said.

Inter Miami is also racing to finish its new $1 billion stadium project by 2025, the final year of Messi’s contract with the club. Messi earns a reported $135 million annually in total on- and off-field earnings that includes a variety of unique contractual elements, including team equity options and MLS Season Pass revenue sharing.

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