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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
John Brewin

Lionel Messi swerves Saudi Arabia for a megastar MLS shindig in Miami

A Miami bar with a mural of Lionel Messi outside.
We searched ‘Lionel Messi Miami’ in Big Picture Database and here’s what we got. Photograph: Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images


Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, Gloria Estefan and her Sound Machine, Crockett and Tubbs, Steve Van Zandt, Dan Marino, Tony Montana, The Rock, Gentle Ben, Jon Secada, Don Shula, Police Academy 5, Jimmy Buckets. Each was drawn to Miami, and the city handed them back star quality in spades.

After Paris, where he looked rather bored and didn’t like the traffic, Lionel Messi is the latest to move to Miami to seek his fortune. Or rather, another fortune. And other fortunes were available. After Saudi Arabia’s LIV-grab for golf paid off earlier this week, the transfer rumour mill dances to the Dr Beat of ageing legends taking up their share of that sweet, sweet, Public Investment Fund capital.

The Saudi Pro League is going through a similar moment to that once experienced in the Carling Premiership, when the likes of Emerson and Alen Boksic found themselves leafing through Teesside estate agent portfolios. Where’s best for shopping? Is Dubai close? But not Lionel, whose sidestepping of the Saudi experience at least means no more Cristiano Ronaldo reunions. Nobody sensible wants all that again. “If it had been a matter of money, I would have gone to Saudi Arabia or elsewhere,” Messi said, rather pointedly.

Talking of reunions, there will be no prodigal return for Messi, as the suits at Barcelona seemed to feel they were entitled to. “President [Joan] Laporta understood and respected Messi’s decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years,” yelped an extract from an actual club statement, presumably penned in salt.

That Barça don’t have the proverbial to do the proverbial in, and would have even less if they re-engaged the player whose wages brought the club to its knees, isn’t a problem now they don’t fancy him anyway. That Messi’s deal includes tie-ins with Adidas and Apple (and reportedly includes a share of MLS revenues) very possibly eased him away from a lengthy discussion following which Messi said “there was still nothing”.

So to Inter Miami (they actually play in Fort Lauderdale): bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference, recently having shelled Phil Neville as manager, which was a wrench for the co-owner David Beckham, a pal since Fizzer was cadging a lift to training in Becks’ Fiesta XR2i. Pip’s exhibition last month, ordering hacks “to show some effing respect” before then forgetting their questions, was among the last straws.

The deal with Messi, said to have been struck sometime adjacent to last year’s Human Rights World Cup, was always likely to clear the decks. Poor Pip won’t get to coach the great man, or his megastar mates coming in: Sergio Busquets, Ángel Di Maria and Luis Suárez, say the transfer addicts. But Pip’s boy Harvey, 20, a midfielder on Inter’s books, might yet get to play alongside him. So there’s that.


“Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it. The more he couldn’t score or contribute, the more the pressure went up. The fans started to boo him and his reaction was not as we expected. We thought he would work harder, fight for the team but he could not” – the Besiktas sporting director, Ceyhun Kazanci, on Dele Alli’s ill-fated spell in Turkey, plus much more, in this lively chat with Will Unwin.


José, Jürgen, Pleaty. And now we can add a new name to the list of great on-pitch managerial celebrations: Moyesy. Rarely the most demonstrative figure in the dugout, the West Ham manager couldn’t contain himself when Jarrod Bowen’s last-gasp winner secured (Not So) Tin Pot in Prague. After running gleefully onto the pitch, Moyes delivered all the post-game classics. The trophy lift to the fans. The dressing-room dance. It was all there. And why not? After all, this is the first major trophy of Moyes’s managerial career – and there’s a decent chance neither he nor his captain, Declan Rice, will be with the Hammers in August. You’ve got to live in the moment.

David Moyes lifts the Conference League trophy
Go on, Moysey. Photograph: Thomas Eisenhuth/Uefa/Getty Images


So now that we’ve made it to a European final, Big Paper and Football Daily are all behind us now? No more Taxpayers FC, you want to be our mates now, eh? [not really – FD Ed]. Well you know what you can do, don’t you? – Robert Courtney.

Surely it’s a bit late to be publishing an assessment of the 2002 World Cup [yesterday’s Quote of the Day]. How can we afford to wait two decades to understand its environmental impact? Surely more urgency is in order. And was Gianni Infantino even in charge in 2002? I think there is enough out there on Mr Infantino’s failings without blaming him for this – Rob Palgrave (and 1,056 others).

The Saudis helping out [Yesterday’s letters]? Hopefully there’ll still be some oil dosh left over for the Scots, Al-Loa Athletic and Al-Bion Rovers. Burton Al-Bion too, although the Brewers might have to adopt an alcohol-free nickname – Steve Malone.

If the MLS marketing people don’t have Leo Messi’s introduction to his new team soundtracked by this, then I’m going to be most disappointed – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Rob Palgrave, who wins a copy of The Three Lives of the Kaiser, a biography of Franz Beckenbauer by Uli Hesse.

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