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Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets unveiled by Inter Miami

Nick Mendola thinks Lionel Messi has plenty in the tank after reportedly passing up $400 million a year from the Saudi Pro League to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer.

Alongside longtime Barcelona teammate and friend Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi was unveiled as an Inter Miami player in the middle of a South Florida downpour on Sunday.

Despite the event being delayed by a severe thunderstorm earlier in the evening, it was a capacity crowd at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, where the MLS side part-owned by David Beckham currently plays its home games.

Messi opted to move to MLS this summer rather than return to Barcelona or join Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante in Saudi Arabia.

Since arriving in South Florida with his family, Messi has even been spotted doing some grocery shopping. Seriously.

The deal reportedly includes profit sharing with two of MLS’s biggest commercial partners, Apple and Adidas, alongside his playing contract.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League final, Manchester City vs Inter Milan ]

It has also been confirmed that Messi has an option to purchase a minority stake in the club, which is partially owned (and operated) by David Beckham, who signed a similarly unique deal when he joined MLS in 2007. Beckham’s contract gave him a $25-million option to purchase an expansion franchise, which he exercised in 2018.

Messi’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain is set to expire on June 30 and the Ligue 1 club announced earlier this month that the Argentine superstar — widely considered the greatest player of all time — will leave the club this summer.

[ MORE: Five players to watch in the Premier League’s summer transfer window ]

When will Lionel Messi make his debut?

Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas has said in an interview with The Miami Herald that Lionel Messi will make his Inter Miami debut on July 21, 2023 against Cruz Azul in a Leagues Cup match.

It will be played at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, which Mas said they are planning to expand to up to 22,200 from its current capacity of 19,000.

What kind of contract will Messi sign?

Details are starting to emerge about the kind of contract Lionel Messi has signed to play in MLS for Inter Miami and, as expected, it is a very unique deal. Messi is in talks with two of MLS’ closest partners, Apples and Adidas, about specific deals with them.

Per the comments from Jorge Mas, Messi will earn close to $60 million per year which includes his salary, owning a stake in Inter Miami and his signing bonus. That contract runs from this July 1 2023 until late December 2025.

It is also believed Messi will no be able to join a European team on loan during the off-season, thus ending hopes he would return to Barcelona for one final farewell.

What can Messi expect in Miami?

Perhaps Inter Miami and MLS weren’t Messi’s first-choice option this summer, as his father previously stated his son’s desire to return to Barcelona, where he famously won 21 major trophies before an unceremonious exit amid financial troubles in the summer of 2021, but those issues still linger two years later. The offer from Saudi Arabia would have reportedly paid Messi, 35, $1.6 billion over three years.

Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who previously worked with Lionel Messi at Barcelona (2013-2014) and Argentina (2014-2016), is reportedly the leading candidate to replace the recently departed Phil Neville as head coach.

Inter Miami, who currently sit bottom (15th) of MLS’s Eastern Conference with 15 points from their first 16 games, parted ways with Neville on June 1.

In his two full seasons in charge, Neville guided the club to regular-season finishes of 11th (of 14) and 6th (of 14) in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2022.

Follow @AndyEdMLS