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Lionel Messi To Sign With MLS Inter Miami, Dumps Saudi, Barcelona, Europe.

Lionel Messi will move to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami as a free agent forgoing top European leagues and a Saudi mega-deal in a shocking move that will arguably bring the highest-profile soccer player to North American soil.

According to BBC’s Guillem Balague on Wednesday, Messi has formally decided to signup with Inter Miami. His latest move was also confirmed by independent journalist Fabrizio Romano a few hours later.

The value of Lionel Messi’s contract with the MLS side is unknown but the Athletic reported on Tuesday that MLS’ television partner Apple and clothing sponsor Adidas each offered Messi profit-sharing agreements to further make the deal irresistible. His move to MLS is expected to boost viewers to the Apple TV streaming platform.

According to Reuters, Messi had wanted to go to a club where he could eventually have an ownership stake.

According to Forbes, Messi was the second highest-paid athlete in the world last year. His $130 million in earnings both within and outside football was higher than that of any athlete except his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed a contract with Saudi Arabian club al-Nassr in January reportedly worth more than $200 million annually.

Messi reportedly considered joining Ronaldo after a massive $300 million per year deal was said to have been offered by Saudi team al-Hilal. The Gulf country is all out to buy all the most valuable players with its massive wealth, with Karim Benzema joining Al Ittihad earlier this week.

Messi, who played his final game for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) over the weekend, was also speculated to return to Barcelona but the Spanish club could not effect it due to LaLiga’s financial fair play rules.

According to a February report from Forbes, Inter Miami is the 11th-most valuable team in MLS, worth $600 million. Billionaire Cuban-American construction tycoon Jorge Mas and English former soccer superstar David Beckham are among the team’s owners.

David Beckham, who was one of the first major European stars to move to the United States to play in the MLS, won the MLS Cup twice with Los Angeles Galaxy.

As news of Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami filtered hit the news on Wednesday, the club’s ticket for the upcoming MLS season skyrocketed in price. TickPick, a secondary ticket seller said ticket prices spiked by as much as 1000% for the first two league games Messi would play in.

Messi’s Inter Miami deal will make it the first time the 35-year-old Argentine will play outside Europe since he joined Barca’s academy at the age of 13 and became the Spanish club’s all-time record goalscorer with 672 goals.

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