When the news broke on June 7, 2023, that Lionel Messi, the larger-than-life Argentinian footballing icon, would play the next two and a half years of his career with Inter Miami FC in the United States, a buzz took over the sports world that only he could create.
This decision came to light as many held out hope there would be a fairytale reunion with FC Barcelona, despite interest from the Saudi Pro League, which would have provided more opportunities to see Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo go head-to-head as they did for nearly a decade in Spain. The deal to bring arguably the greatest of all time in their sport to the US was sure to be monumental, but the deal with Lionel Messi may very well change the way athletes approach the negotiating table.
The structure of the contract is the first of its kind; aside from the roughly $50 million (and potentially $60 million with incentives) salary, Messi is also reported to be entitled to a cut of Apple’s streaming revenue of Major League Soccer, having obtained exclusive streaming rights to the league for the next ten years in a $2.5 billion agreement. Given his unparalleled worldwide appeal, the subscriptions to MLS Season Pass, the streaming service associated with the deal, are likely to skyrocket. In terms of tax implications, the state of Florida does not have an income tax, meaning Messi will be keeping far more of his salary than he may have had he taken his talents elsewhere. He does, however, owe tax in other states where he will play his away matches. The so-called “Jock Tax” is calculated by the number of workdays spent in a particular state, which includes practice and travel days. That total is then divided by the number of workdays throughout the entirety of the season. Factor in the tax complexities that are associated with his international sponsorship deals, and you have quite the undertaking for his team of accountants.
Additionally, Messi has been offered a minority share in Inter Miami. The only historical precedence in terms of ownership would date back to David Beckham’s contract in 2007 with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Beckham’s deal included the opportunity for a future ownership stake in an undisclosed MLS club, which, ironically enough, went on to be Inter Miami FC.
The investment has paid early dividends, as Messi has scored in each of his first two matches with the club in front of sold-out crowds at the DRV PNK Stadium. Personally, I had the opportunity to purchase tickets for $40 in the days leading up to the announcement of their match in late August against the New York Red Bulls. Those same tickets today are upwards of $450. This is not an isolated incident either, as ticket prices have soared for all Inter Miami’s away matches by over 500% on average, making Lionel Messi the hottest ticket in the country by a wide margin. The sheer amount of financial inflow with Messi’s arrival is essentially limitless for both Miami and Major League Soccer as a whole. Jorge Mas, the co-owner of the club, expects the signing to double revenues and as well as franchise value from $600 million to $1.2 billion over the next year. Adidas is selling more jerseys than they can print. Corporate sponsors will be practically lining up to take advantage of Messi’s international marketability. Inter Miami’s stadium is a short drive to Fort Lauderdale Airport, providing a direct connection to visitors both domestically and internationally. More eyes will be on Major League Soccer now than ever before, which is sure to have a butterfly effect on the league and American sports overall in the years to come.